People Lie More in the Afternoon

Friday, 18 Jul 2014 04:41 PM

By Dr. Small

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Buying a used car? You may be better off visiting a dealership in the morning. That’s the upshot of intriguing new research that indicates people are more likely to be dishonest in the afternoon.
 
According to a new study, our ability to exhibit self-control to avoid lying, cheating, or stealing declines over the course of a day — making people more likely to be dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning.
 
“As ethics researchers, we had been running experiments examining various unethical behaviors, such as lying, stealing, and cheating,” stated Maryam Kouchaki of Harvard University and Isaac Smith of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, who published their findings in the journal “Psychological Science.”
 
“We noticed that experiments conducted in the morning seemed to systematically result in lower instances of unethical behavior.”
 
In one experiment, the researchers showed college students patterns of dots on a computer and asked them to identify whether there were more dots on the left or right side of the screen.
 
The participants were paid 10 times more money for selecting the right over the left — regardless of which side had more dots — creating an incentive to cheat and lie.
 
The results showed that students tested between 8 a.m. and noon were less likely to cheat than those tested between noon and 6 p.m. — a phenomenon the researchers dubbed the “morning morality effect.”
 
The researchers believe one explanation for the findings is that self-control can be diminished by fatigue, a lack of rest, and making repeated decisions.
 

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Gary Small, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry and aging, and director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Small, one the nation’s top brain health experts, is author of The Mind Health Report newsletter.
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