It Works: Stories From The Book

A time for everything

In an actual experiment by the Israeli parole board, three prisoners who had completed around two-thirds of their sentences were ordered to appear before the parole board (consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker). Read the following examples and guess who you think was the most likely to get their freedom, and why.

  1. Case 1 (heard at 8.50 am): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.
  2. Case 2 (heard at 3.10 pm): A Jewish Israeli serving a 16-month sentence for assault.
  3. Case 3 (heard at 4.25 pm): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

If you guessed Case 1 you would be correct. Despite the fact that the prisoner had the same sentence for the same crime as Case 3, being heard in the morning increased his odds of a favourable decision. After analysing more than 1000 decisions, it was discovered that prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 per cent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 per cent of the time. This famous study concluded that crime, sentence and ethnic background had little or no bearing on the decision. What had the biggest impact was the time of day that the hearing took place.

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In an actual experiment by the Israeli parole board, three prisoners who had completed around two-thirds of their sentences were ordered to appear before the parole board (consisting of a judge, a criminologist... More
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