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That is the take-home message from a new study of experienced judges in Israel. Judges were much more likely to grant parole right after they had a lunch or snack break:
The team studied more than 1,000 parole decisions made by eight experienced judges in Israel over 50 days in a ten-month period. After a snack or lunch break, 65 percent of cases were granted parole. The rate of favorable rulings then fell gradually, sometimes [to] as low as zero, within each decision session and would return to 65 percent after a break.
Jonathan Levav, a professor at Columbia Business School who co-authored the study, said the more rulings a judge makes, the greater the tendency to “rule in favor of the status quo,” but a snack break can interrupt that tendency.
The current study left unsettled the issue of whether it was the food itself or the rest period that came with it that improved the judges' dispositions toward the hopeful convicts. Previous research has shown that both glucose and mental breaks can restore mental functioning.
The study adds to a growing body of evidence on psychological bias in judicial decision-making.