Two economists at Louisiana State University (LSU) have analyzed juvenile court decisions made between 1996 and 2012. They found that for judges who attended LSU as undergraduates, a football loss led to disproportionately stiffer sentences. If the loss was in a high-stakes game, for example LSU was in the Top 10 and lost unexpectedly, it got worst — on average, an additional 63 days were added to judgments the following week. For a low-stakes game, an unexpected loss resulted in an additional 36 days. There also was a race variation. An upset lost led to 46 additional days for black defendants, while white defendants got about eight more days. The analysis covered 8200 records with 207 judges. The research looked at first-time offenders between the ages of 10 and 17, and crimes with mandatory-minimum sentences, such as murder, were excluded.
Psychologists call this the “affect heuristic” — the way you feel primes your judgments. Another example is a 2011 study that concluded Israeli judges were more likely to deny parole when they were hungry. I shutter to think about other examples.
Once again, human behavior is complex to the point of being fascinating (frightening?). This is something all trial judges should be aware of. Or at least all defense attorneys.
For the original report with supporting links, go to http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/09/judges-give-harsh-sentences-when-their-football-team-loses.html? . The photo came from that website.