Washington, Oct 31: People’s ability to exhibit self-control to avoid engaging in dishonest behaviour is significantly cut over the course of a day, which makes them more likely to cheat or lie in the afternoon than in the morning, a new study has suggested.
Researchers Maryam Kouchaki of Harvard University and Isaac Smith of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business said that as ethics researchers, they had been running experiments examining various unethical behaviours, like lying, stealing, and cheating and noticed that experiments conducted in the morning seemed to systematically result in lower instances of unethical behaviour.
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 study has been published in Psychological Science. (ANI)