Why You Don’t Want To Be Up For Parole Before Lunch

by Nate St. Pierre on April 20, 2012

I read an interesting article today (Ego Depletion) over at a cool site I follow, You Are Not So Smart.

It had to do with human physiology, and how many different studies show that when humans are faced with situations that test their willpower in various ways, both mental and physical, we become weaker for the next “willpower attack” until we rest and/or recharge. Rest can come in the form of taking a break from anything taxing, and recharging can come in the form of eating, especially glucose-heavy foods.

It’s a really long article, and there’s a lot of interesting discussion in there (including some on why Sigmund Freud spouted a lot of bunk), so I’d encourage you to go check it out. But the most amazing fact I pulled from it was this:

A study published in 2010 conducted by Jonathan Leval, Shai Danziger, and Liora Avniam-Pesso of of Columbia and Ben-Guron Universities looked at 1,112 judicial ruling over the course of 10 months concerning prisoner paroles. They found that right after breakfast and lunch, your chances of getting paroled were at their highest. On average, the judges granted parole to around 60 percent of prisoners right after the judge had eaten a meal. The rate of approval crept down after that. Right before a meal, the judges granted parole to about 20 percent of those appearing before them. The less glucose in judges’ bodies, the less willing they were to make the active choice of setting a person free and accepting the consequences and the more likely they were to go with the passive choice to put the fate of the prisoner off until a future date.

I understand that this is mostly anecdotal evidence, but WOW. And it makes sense on an intuitive level, right? We all know how we get when we’re tired or hungry or overworked, right? Cranky, less thoughtful, wanting to get whatever’s in front of us off our plate as quickly as possible so we can eat or rest or go home or whatever. And look how that may turn out in real life, and how much that little bit of difference can make in the life of someone you touch.

I’m not 100% sure about all this, but I can tell you that if I’m ever up for parole, I’ll lobby for a 1:30 hearing.

Do you guys think this makes sense, or is it a case of selective science?

(Image source: Public Domain Pictures)

  • Peliroo Corrice

    Fascinating, Nate .  The article was timely for me, too.  The military course I went through a couple of weeks ago was rife with psychology of motivation.  I learned a lot about myself and what I can do without food or sleep.  I am trying to summon the fortitude to blog about what I experienced there. Still combing through the thoughts.

    I had a wise friend tell me one time that all of my self esteem is tied up in my diet.  I think to a large degree she was right.  It’s why I try to eat a decent breakfast every morning and push others to do the same. I notice that I am full of road rage on the way to work in the morning if I don’t eat at least a cup of yogurt before I leave. 

    I’d love to see any updated studies on motivation and sun exposure or music exposure.  I am certain this is an issue for me and many others.  If I find one, I’ll share.

    The article before it is really interesting, too.  I am in the process of planning a job switch in 2 years to something I really enjoy, and the exact same thoughts as the article crossed my mind yesterday.  

    Great site.  Bookmarked.  

    • Yeah, that’s such a cool site. He doesn’t write often, but every one is very good.

  • Pamela Jorrick

    I think it totally makes sense. At some point, hunger and sleep cause us to revert to our inner toddlers. While we may not actually throw tantrums, we certainly behave differently (and usually less pleasantly) versus when we are well fed and rested.

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