No Hatred or Malice, Fear or Affection": Media and Sentencing

Article in a refereed journal

Aurélie Ouss and Arnaud Philippe, "No Hatred or Malice, Fear or Affection": Media and Sentencing", Journal of Political Economy, 2018.[ Forthcoming ][Working paper version]


We explore how television broadcasting of unrelated criminal justice events affects sentencing. Exploiting as-good-as-random variation in news content before a verdict, we find that sentences are 3 months longer when the verdict is reached after coverage of crime. Sentence increase with media exposure to crime, not crime itself, and the effect tapers off quickly. Our results suggest that professional experience and expertise mitigates the effect of irrelevant external information. This paper highlights the influence of noise in the news cycle: media can temporarily influence decisions by changing what is top-of-the-mind, rather than signaling deeper changes in offending or societal concerns.


judicial decision
cognitive bias

JEL codes

D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
K14: Criminal Law
L82: Entertainment; Media

IAST Discipline

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