Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Moral in the morning, but dishonest in the afternoon

Date:
October 30, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
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 a new article.

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 new research.
Credit: Mark Poprocki / Fotolia

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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Kouchaki, I. H. Smith. The Morning Morality Effect: The Influence of Time of Day on Unethical Behavior. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613498099

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Moral in the morning, but dishonest in the afternoon." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030093144.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, October 30). Moral in the morning, but dishonest in the afternoon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030093144.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Moral in the morning, but dishonest in the afternoon." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030093144.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What Self-Made Women Need to Know Financially Before Getting Hitched

What Self-Made Women Need to Know Financially Before Getting Hitched

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) Halle Berry was recently ordered to pay her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry $16,000 a month in child support by a California judge for their daughter Nahla. As women make strides in the workforce, they are increasingly left holding the bag when relationships end regardless of marital status. 'What Monied Women Need to Know Before Getting Married or Cohabitating' discusses information such as debt incurred during the marriage is both spouse's responsibility at divorce, whether after ten years of marriage spouses are entitled to half of everything and why property acquired within the marriage is fair game without a pre-nup. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Reuters - US Online Video (July 18, 2014) The FCC received more than 800,000 comments on whether and how internet speeds should be regulated, even crashing its system. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfire Tears Through Washington

Raw: Wildfire Tears Through Washington

AP (July 18, 2014) A large wildfire continued to gain steam through north-central Washington Friday. The blaze is already responsible for the destruction of at least 100 homes. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins