LEGAL DECISIONS AND THE TIME OF DAY. Jonah Lehrer has an article here describing a study of judicial decision-making which analyzed over 1100 parole board hearings conducted over a ten month period. The results showed that the time of day of the hearing had an important effect on the outcome. The judges granted a parole about 65% of the time in hearings at the beginning of the day or after a break, with a sharp decline in granting paroles as the time from a break increased. Lehrer attributes the result to fatigue from making decisions. It was more difficult to grant parole because the status quo was being changed and because explaining the grant of parole in an opinion was more difficult. Lehrer emphasizes that the result confirms other studies by psychologists that show that decision-making is tiring. Lehrer puts it in scientific terms: “The details of the case can’t compete with a worn down prefrontal cortex.”

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