Apr 18, 2011

Can Food Affect Parole Decisions?

A Columbia Professor and an Israeli research team made an interesting, and disturbing, finding when reviewing the effects of taking a snack break on parole decisions by judges in Israel.

"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 as low as zero, within each decision session and would return to 65 percent after a break.

Professor Levav commented on the meaning of the study, "The evidence suggests that when judges make repeated rulings, they show an increased tendency to rule in favor of the status quo. This tendency can be overcome by taking a break to eat a meal, which is consistent with previous research that demonstrated the positive impact of a short rest and glucose on mental resource replenishment. However, food might not be the only factor; sometimes a mental break can yield a similar result."

The study was recently published in  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To read the article describing the study in Medical News Today, click here.