Ramadan fasting increases leniency in judges from Pakistan and India

Sultan Mehmood, Avner Seror, and Daniel L. Chen


We estimate the impact of the Ramadan fasting ritual on criminal sentencing decisions in Pakistan and India from half a century of daily data. We use random case assignment and exogenous variation in fasting intensity during Ramadan due to the rotating Islamic calendar and the geographical latitude of the district courts to document the large effects of Ramadan fasting on decision-making. Our sample comprises roughly a half million cases and 10,000 judges from Pakistan and India. Ritual intensity increases Muslim judges’ acquittal rates, lowers their appeal and reversal rates, and does not come at the cost of increased recidivism or heightened outgroup bias. Overall, our results indicate that the Ramadan fasting ritual followed by a billion Muslims worldwide induces more lenient decisions.


Published in

Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 7, June 2023, pp. 874–880