It’s rare that scientific findings make headlines and even rarer that they go viral.
When that viral moment happens, the finding inevitably ends up getting viewed as fact. And once something is viewed as fact, once a single study becomes part of the zeitgeist, it’s hard to dislodge the finding, even after evidence accumulates discrediting or disproving it.
This is especially so when the finding is intuitive because things that align with our prior beliefs just feel really “true.”
The famous hungry judges effect falls into this category.
I’d bet you’re already familiar with the effect. In 2011, Shai Danziger and colleagues looked at 1,112 parole decisions by Israeli judges. The judges had two scheduled breaks to eat each day. The researchers wanted to know if there was a measurable difference in the severity of sentences before the food break in comparison to after.
In other words, were hungry judges more likely to dole out harsher sentences than judges who had just eaten?