Moral in the Morning; Dishonest in the Afternoon

When I read the title of this study abstract, I felt irritated and dismayed.  Who of us would fall into this pattern of behavior?  Well, researchers from the University of Utah performed an experiment on students to ask this question:  Is it easier to resist opportunities to lie, cheat, steal, or engage in other unethical behavior in the morning or in the afternoon?

They were given tests on a computer to measure how apt they were to lie and cheat.  Participants tested between 8 am and 12 noon were less likely to cheat than those tested between noon and 6 pm.  Researchers call this the “morning morality effect.”  They also devised a test to measure participants’ moral awareness in both the morning and the afternoon.  The same “morning morality effect” was shown in this test as well.

Furthermore, researchers did an online study that showed the same pattern—more dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning.  They concluded that their findings suggest that mere time of day can lead to a systematic failure of good people to act morally.