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Psychol Sci. 2017 Feb;28(2):242-247. doi: 10.1177/0956797616678437. Epub 2016 Dec 13.

Sleepy Punishers Are Harsh Punishers.

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1 Department of Management and Organization, Foster School of Business, University of Washington.
2 Behavioral Research at Darden Lab, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.


The degree of punishment assigned to criminals is of pivotal importance for the maintenance of social order and cooperation. Nonetheless, the amount of punishment assigned to transgressors can be affected by factors other than the content of the transgressions. We propose that sleep deprivation in judges increases the severity of their sentences. We took advantage of the natural quasi-manipulation of sleep deprivation during the shift to daylight saving time in the spring and analyzed archival data from judicial punishment handed out in the U.S. federal courts. The results supported our hypothesis: Judges doled out longer sentences when they were sleep deprived.


daylight saving time; legal sentencing; moral judgment; sleep; third-party punishment

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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