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Hungry, Hungry Judges

Photo: ssalonso

If you’re going to court, you better hope that judge had breakfast. Or just a break. A new study looked into psychological effects in the courtroom from the supply side: the judges. Researchers evaluated results from more than 1,000 rulings made by 8 Israeli judges and found that favorable rulings peaked at the beginning of the day, then again after lunch or a food break:

We find that the percentage of favorable rulings drops gradually from [about] 65% to nearly zero within each decision session and returns abruptly to [about] 65% after a break. Our findings suggest that judicial rulings can be swayed by extraneous variables that should have no bearing on legal decisions.

Jonathan Levav, an associate professor at Columbia Business School and one of the authors of the paper, told the Guardian: “You are anywhere between two and six times as likely to be released if you’re one of the first three prisoners considered versus the last three prisoners considered.”