Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles

Published By: NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH on eSS | Published Date: September , 2016

This paper analyzes the effects of emotional shocks associated with unexpected outcomes of football games played by a prominent college team in the state. It investigates the behavior of judges, the conduct of whom should, by law, be free of personal biases and emotions. It finds that unexpected losses increase disposition (sentence) lengths assigned by judges during the week following the game. Unexpected wins, or losses that were expected to be close contests ex-ante, have no impact. The effects of these emotional shocks are asymmetrically borne by black defendants. This presents evidence that the results are not influenced by defendant or attorney behavior or by defendants’ economic background. Importantly, the results are driven by judges who have received their bachelor’s degrees from the university with which the football team is affiliated. Different falsification tests and a number of auxiliary analyses demonstrate the robustness of the findings. These results provide evidence for the impact of emotions in one domain on a behavior in a completely unrelated domain among a uniformly highly-educated group of individuals (judges), with decisions involving high stakes (sentence lengths). They also point to the existence of a subtle and previously-unnoticed capricious application of sentencing. [Working Paper 22611]

Author(s): Ozkan Eren, Naci Mocan | Posted on: Sep 07, 2016 | Views()

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