Your honesty may be linked to the time of day, according to new research in Psychological Science suggesting that night owls are more likely to be dishonest in the morning and morning larks are more likely to lie in the late evening.
Why some people are night owls—even before they are born
When a person is most likely to act unethically depends on their unique chronotype, or genetically determined sleeping and waking preferences, according to study co-author Sunita Sah. For the study, Sah first determined the chronotypes of 140 people via a self-assessment, and then studied them as they played a lottery-style game at different times of day.
What is your chronotype? Take the Washington Post's quiz
In the game, participants would roll dice to win raffle tickets—the higher the number rolled, the more tickets the participants would win—and then self-report their dice rolls. The average dice roll should statistically average out to 3.5, but participants reported higher roll numbers.
"Morning people tended to report higher die-roll numbers in the evening than the morning, but evening people tended to report higher numbers in the morning than the evening," writes Sah, adding the results "cast doubt on the stereotype that evening people are somehow dissolute."
The findings suggest that the one-size-fits-all, nine-to-five schedule may invite ethical lapses for some employees, Sah says.
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"Employers could consider this when creating their own work structures," Sah says. "They might want to think about flex time, about matching individuals with what's best for them."
For individual employees, "know thy chronotype, know thyself," Sah says, advising employees to schedule meetings and difficult tasks at times of day when they will be most alert.
"One of the important points the study really reflects is that good people can make unethical decisions," Sah says, adding "Ethics are not a stable characteristic over time" (Ingraham, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 7/22).
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