Does Hunger Bias Judicial Decision-Making?

A study by researchers from Columbia University found that judges are significantly less likely to grant parole when they are hungry, indicating that hunger bias plays a large role in judicial decision-making. In the study, prisoners had almost a 65 percent chance of being paroled at the beginning of a session, which dropped to almost 0 percent by the end of the session. After a food break, the chances of being paroled jumped back up to about 65 percent.

More information about judicial decisions:

  • Other factors that are commonly researched with respect to their effect on judicial decisions include fatigue, political preferences, financial interests, and social demographics such as race and gender.

  • The term "judicial activism" refers to judicial decisions that are based on political or personal considerations by the judge. Judicial restraint is when a judge is expected to have restricted himself or herself from allowing personal bias to affect his or her decision.

  • In the United States, judges are expected to disqualify, or recuse, themselves from cases when they might have a personal bias or personal knowledge.

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