Is Judgment Fatigable?: Considering the Case of Employee Selection Panels

Is Judgment Fatigable?: Considering the Case of Employee Selection Panels

Patrick Bolton, Louise Thornthwaite
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJABE.2015100103
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Decision fatigue theory asserts that judgment wanes with repeated decision-making because mental resources are depleted. Management consultants and journalists have taken up this concept with considerable vigour, based on limited empirical evidence. This paper challenges that theory. The authors' study sought to demonstrate decision fatigue in public sector employee selection panels composed of multiple decision makers who made multiple serial decisions. They found little evidence that the judgment of individual decision makers was swayed by fatigue.
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Literature Review

While in various disciplines, there has been considerable research suggesting that decision-making ability declines with fatigue, it was Danzinger, Levav and Avnaim-Pesso’s influential study in 2011 of judicial rulings by Israeli parole boards that catapulted this issue into mainstream decision- making discourse, particularly in the field of management. Danzinger and colleagues examined the decisions of eight judges who presided over two Israeli parole boards who reviewed 1,112 cases in fifty days over ten months. The study found that when judges make repeated rulings, they show an increased tendency to rule in favour of the status quo, which in this case meant denying the prisoner’s request. Parolees were most likely to succeed in their applications early in the day and after the parole board had taken rest periods. While Danzinger and colleagues suggested this tendency could be overcome by taking a break to eat a meal, they also expressed caution about concluding that either the eating or the rest were the crucial factor because each break had been associated with food consumption. For the researchers, the central objective was to identify how extraneous factors can sway highly consequential decisions of expert decision makers. Their analytical focus essentially was on judicial reasoning, and in particular the counter argument that legal realists pose to the view within legal formalism that judges apply facts to cases in a rational, mechanical and deliberative way, untouched by psychological, political and social factors. 1 The parole board research indicated that, as legal realists posit, legally irrelevant situational factors can and do affect judicial rulings. Danzinger and colleagues suggested that similar effects might be found in other sequential decisions in legal, medical, financial and educational settings.

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