Interesting Read

· TGI - General

Our ability to exhibit self-control to avoid cheating or lying  is significantly reduced over the course of a day, making us more likely to be  dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning, according to findings published  in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for  Psychological Science.

“As ethics researchers, we had been running experiments examining various  unethical behaviors, such as lying, stealing, and cheating,” researchers Maryam  Kouchaki of Harvard University and Isaac Smith of the University of Utah’s David  Eccles School of Business explain. “We noticed that experiments conducted in the  morning seemed to systematically result in lower instances of unethical  behavior.”

This led the researchers to wonder: Is it easier to resist opportunities to  lie, cheat, steal, and engage in other unethical behavior in the morning than in  the afternoon?

Knowing that self-control can be depleted from a lack of rest and from making  repeated decisions, Kouchacki and Smith wanted to examine whether normal  activities during the day would be enough to deplete self-control and increase  dishonest behavior.

In two experiments, college-age participants were shown various patterns of  dots on a computer. For each pattern, they were asked to identify whether more  dots were displayed on the left or right side of the screen. Importantly,  participants were not given money for getting correct answers, but were instead  given money based on which side of the screen they determined had more dots;  they were paid 10 times the amount for selecting the right over the left.  Participants therefore had a financial incentive to select the right, even if  there were unmistakably more dots on the left, which would be a case of clear  cheating.

In line with the hypothesis, participants tested between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm  were less likely to cheat than those tested between 12:00 pm and 6:00pm — a  phenomenon the researchers call the “morning morality effect.”

They also tested participants’ moral awareness in both the morning and  afternoon. After presenting them with word fragments such as “_ _RAL” and “E_ _  _ C_ _” the morning participants were more likely to form the words “moral” and  “ethical,” whereas the afternoon participants tended to form the words “coral”  and “effects,” lending further support to the morning morality effect.

The researchers found the same pattern of results when they tested a sample  of online participants from across the United States. Participants were more  likely to send a dishonest message to a virtual partner or to report having  solved an unsolvable number-matching problem in the afternoon, compared to the  morning.

They also discovered that the extent to which people behave unethically  without feeling guilt or distress — known as moral disengagement — made a  difference in how strong the morning morality effect was. Those participants  with a higher propensity to morally disengage were likely to cheat in both the  morning and the afternoon. But people who had a lower propensity to morally  disengage — those who might be expected to be more ethical in general — were  honest in the morning, but less so in the afternoon.

“Unfortunately, the most honest people, such as those less likely to morally  disengage, may be the most susceptible to the negative consequences associated  with the morning morality effect,” the researchers write. “Our findings suggest  that mere time of day can lead to a systematic failure of good people to act  morally.”

Kouchacki, a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J.  Safra Center for Ethics, completed her doctoral studies at the University of  Utah, where Smith is a current doctoral student. They note that their research  results could have implications for organizations or businesses trying to reduce  unethical behavior.

“For instance, organizations may need to be more vigilant about combating the  unethical behavior of customers or employees in the afternoon than in the  morning,” the researchers explain. “Whether you are personally trying to manage  your own temptations, or you are a parent, teacher, or leader worried about the  unethical behavior of others, our research suggests that it can be important to  take something as seemingly mundane as the time of day into account.”



Does it mean only 20 productive work hours/week? whether it is business, work, studies etc.,and getting paid for about 40h/w.

Share your thoughts.

1 Comment

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  1. Alan Schmukler

    For years psychologists have been doing this sort of reductionist research (why!) which leads no where. There are serious problems in the world that need to be addressed, but this is a waste. Bankers have ruined the world economy putting millions out of work. I wonder if they did this in the afternoon?


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