We hope that while you find today’s information interesting, you never have to personally use it out there in the real world. This is because this week’s Reality Swipe puts us smack bang in the centre of the legal system! Court is in session and the case is Science Vs Parole Judges. Those parole judges should be worried, like always, science has some irrefutable evidence.
Before that, imagine that you are a lawyer and your client is three quarters of the way through his prison sentence. He is up for parole, and has asked you for advice. You spent years working with this client, you know they have seen the error of their ways and are ready to be released in to the community. What advice would you offer to get them through the parole hearing? We put this to the Reality Swipe team. “Don’t be late”, was the first piece of advice they would offer. Sounds good but as prisoners cannot move around as easy as they want, this one may be a little out of their hands. Another suggestion was to tell them to, “watch their manors” as we all know please and thank you can go a long way. Did you come up with any others? Did you use common sense tips on good presentation to offer advice to your client like we did? Whilst we are sure these things do contribute, new research into judicial decision show there is one factor that has an overwhelming influence on if a person gets parole. It has nothing to do with the presentation of the defendant or how they come across to the judge. Worryingly, is it does not even matter on something as important as the details of the case.
What times of the day do you work at your best? Most of my writing is done in the morning just after breakfast. Writing up until about 11, then I will check the news and see what is new on YouTube until lunch. After lunch, similar to the morning, I will work for a few hours then pick up some of the less mentally taxing stuff as the day goes on. I am pleased to find out that this pattern of producing a better standard of work after meals is common amongst people in all careers. This wisdom was the starting point for Jonathan Levav, an associate professor at the Columbia Business School, who took this idea and started gathering data. He wanted to see how this style of working affected certain type of professions. Could it affect the profession where making a wrong decision could cost a man his freedom?
What he found was astonishing. A tired judge is much less likely to grant a defendant’s request for parole than one who has just eaten, or taken a break. By examining rulings made by Israeli parole board judges, he saw that prisoners had a 65% success rate if their cases were heard early in the workday or immediately after a judge had eaten. This was compared to parole being granted dropping to almost zero just before a break period, and at the end of the day.
When you listed the advice you would give as a lawyer, unless you advised your client to take in a enough pizza to feed everyone in the room, it statistically wouldn’t off been very good. No advice would have. This research shows that when a judge is tired and hungry he simply will not look into case details and is far more likely to opt for the easier option, denying bail, even when bail would be the appropriate choice. Speaking about the finding Levav said “On the one hand, it confirms our intuition, and on the other hand it’s terrifying.”As more data sets become available, we will see to what extent this effect is at work in other professions. Whist it could expose times where this is beneficial, think parking warden chooses not to write out the ticket just before their lunch. But if it’s found to be wide spread, it could result in overhaul of the whole justice system.
Jonathan Levav Paper –
The dotted line indicates time spent on lunch breaks