According to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, research done by Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that the eating habits of their country’s judges had a significant impact on whether or not a prisoner was paroled. The extensive research, of eight Israeli judges, and 1000 applications for paroled made over a period of 10 months found that at the start of every day, about two thirds of pro applications were successful. However as time passed, the judges consistently became less charitable and remarkably, the rate of successful parole applications dropped to 0. However after meal breaks, the rate of parole approval rocketed back up to almost its original high position prior to falling once again as the day went on.
The research carefully ascertained that neither the gender nor ethnic nature of prisoners made any the difference, nor did any other issues they can market e.g. the seriousness of crimes committed or length of prison sentence – the pattern that remained was the periodic judicial grumpiness.
What causes the difference in approach?
The most popular explanation is a simple drop in blood sugar levels. The theory continues that decision-making is hard work, and therefore as people (and even judges are people) get more tired they start to look for easy answers – which in this particular scenario resulted in a simple no – a denial of parole.
This theory is backed up by the fact that favourable decisions took 7.4 minutes whilst decisions refusing parole took just 5.2 minutes. Equally favourable rulings involved longer written verdicts – 90 words compares with an average of only 47 words rejecting parole.
Does it apply to the way you and your employees work?
All very well you might say, but what does it mean to us?
Well on the basis that most staff work a seven or eight hour day with perhaps only one food break in the middle, should we as employers be taking more care about insisting staff take lunch breaks, and arranging for more complex tasks to be done first in the morning and straight after lunch?
These implications are of particular importance in some industries. EU drivers, for example, aren’t allowed to drive more than 4 1/2 hours without a break and airline pilots must follow detailed checklists.
Is there any scope to using this fascinating insight in your business? Do let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Bishop, Senior Partner, Bonallack and Bishop