Mornings Don’t Make You Moral

Mornings Don’t Make You Moral→

Good news if you’re not a morning person. You still have a chance to be good.

Sah began her research by assuming that we are different people at different hours. In a series of studies, she and her colleagues Brian Gunia and Christopher Barnes examined whether time of day affected the likelihood that a person would cheat at a game. They selected their participants by chronotype, focussing on those who fell on either side of the Horne-Ostberg scale—those who preferred morning and those who preferred night. In one study, participants recorded how many number matrices they had solved correctly. In another, they noted how they had performed in a die-rolling task. In both cases, they had the opportunity to cheat—they were allowed to score themselves—and a monetary incentive to do so.

Some people did cheat less in the morning, Sah found, but only if they were early birds to begin with. The opposite was also true: night owls cheated less in the evening. Time of day had less effect on honesty, the group concluded, than did the synchronicity between person and environment. “Our results should really dissipate those stereotypes of morning people being more saintly,” Sah says. “The important thing is the match.” Early birds aren’t ethically superior. And, to the extent that other research suggests that they are, it may just be that they are luckier: modern society, for the most part, is built around their preferences. We are expected to function well early in the morning. We can’t just wake up when our bodies tell us to and work when we feel at our peak.