Can Hunger Alter Your Ability To Make Decisions?

Most people recognize that grocery shopping when they are hungry is not a good idea. If you are hungry and you grocery shop, you may be more likely to purchase more food than intended or even purchase foods that are not the best choices (maybe a few too many desserts).

While having a few extra groceries may be inconvenient, it doesn't necessarily effect someone's else's life in the grand scheme of things. Could hunger effect major decisions? That's just what researchers in Israel wondered.

The researchers followed the results of 1,112 parole board hearings in Israeli prisons over a ten-month period. They followed 8 Jewish Israeli judges with an average of 22 years on the bench. The verdicts shown represented 40% of all parole requests in the country over a ten-month period. Each day, each judge reviewed between 14 and 35 cases, averaging approximately 6 minutes on each decision. They were allowed to take 2 food breaks breaking the day into 3 sessions. The vertical exits is the proportion of cases where the judges granted parol. The horizontal axis shows the time. Time of day. The dotted lines represent the points where the judges took a break and had a snack or lunch.

The graph above basically displays the odds the prisoner had of getting out of prison on parole. At the start of the day, the number of prisoners who were granted parole was around 65% and plummeted as the day went on. When the judge took a break for lunch and came back to hear cases, the likelihood that the prisoner was granted parole was significantly elevated to near 65% again but plummeted again soon afterwards. The same scenario happened after the judges took a break for afternoon snack.

Basically, a prisoner’s fate could hinge upon if the judge is hungry or not.

What's scary is that the judges were unaware that hunger effected their decisions. The biases weren’t due to discrimination, for the judges treated the prisoners equally regardless of their gender, ethnicity or the severity of their crime. The bias was based on the physical state of hunger of the judge.

What are you to do?

Understand hunger will not just affect your decisions on food choices but also the judgements as well. It seems to appear that you will be more lenient if you are not hungry. If you are hungry, the likely hood of you being lenient will practically drop to zero. And, if you are ever up for parole, make sure to give the judge some food prior to your hearing!


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

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