Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Morning People Are More Likely to Lie to Their Bosses in the Afternoon

ARCHIVES
Dmitry Melnikov/Shutterstock.com

There are morning people and there are evening people; there is ethical behavior and there is unethical behavior. That much we know, and previous attempts to suss out how those categories overlap with each other pointed researchers toward what’s called the “morning morality effect.” The effect, written up in a study last year, suggests that people behave more ethically earlier in the day, the theoretical underpinning being that as a person grows drained from the day’s mounting obligations, they lose the wherewithal required to behave in a saintly manner.

This seems plausible enough, but another group of researchers wondered if the morning morality effect might overlook an element of existing sleep research: that people have specific “chronotypes,” meaning they’re predisposed to feeling alert at different times of day. (One's chronotype can change over the course of a lifetime.) The morning morality effect, they figured, doesn’t account for the portion of the population—roughly 40 percent—whose vitality blooms in the evening. These researchers conducted a study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, that found that an evening person is roughly three times as likely to behave unethically in the morning than a morning person.

“An important aspect of this research is not that morning people are more moral, it's actually the match that's the most important thing. It's that morning people are more ethical in the morning, but evening people are more ethical in the evening,” says Sunita Sah, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of business ethics at Georgetown University.

Classifying behavior as either ethical or unethical is a fraught process that might trouble some philosophers, but Sah and her co-authors turned to agreed-upon research tactics that would allow them to determine when a subject was lying to get ahead. The study included two different experiments, both of which involved self-reported results. In one, subjects were paid 50 cents for each math puzzle they completed in five minutes’ time, and in another, subjects rolled a die several times and were given lottery tickets in proportion to the dots on each roll. In both scenarios, several subjects lied about their results, and they did so along chronotypical lines.

The idea of scheduling “big ethical decisions” for certain times a day, based on your chronotype, seems impractical, but there are still things that can be done to accommodate these findings. Sah suggested that important meetings shouldn’t by default occur early in the morning, and would be better scheduled mid-day. She had another idea, based on her experience as a professor teaching undergraduates, who, given their typical age, tend to be evening people: “If we're setting exams at 8:00 in the morning, we might want to think about how many students are likely to cheat in those exams,” she says. Her findings might also add to the existing evidence that high school students might perform better if their school days started later.

Sah said she’s interested in exploring the effects of culturally-imposed sleep habits on ethical behavior. For example, when Daylight Savings Time goes into effect and people lose an hour of sleep, their moral compass might be, at least marginally, thrown out of whack. (This isn’t entirely implausible: Consider a 2009 study that found that, among miners, losing sleep to Daylight Savings increased the risk of having an accident the following Monday.)

Another unexplored phenomenon is napping. “Some cultures already have napping in the afternoon, siestas, which might mitigate some of the effects for morning people as the day goes on. It might renew their energy and make them more ethical,” Sah said. “Napping might refresh their cognitive abilities so that they could make a better decision at the end of the day."

(Image via Dmitry Melnikov/Shutterstock.com)

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.