If you’re planning to schedule an important meeting with colleagues or a job interview, it might be better to aim for a time slot earlier in the day.
A study conducted by ethics researchers at the University of Utah found people are more likely to cheat, lie or steal later in the day. This behaviour was found to be linked to a decrease in self-control from “a lack of rest and from making repeated decision”.
“We noticed that experiments conducted in the morning seemed to systematically result in lower instances of unethical behaviour,” researchers Maryam Kouchaki of Harvard University and Isaac Smith of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business said.
The researchers conducted two experiments, and found what they called the “morning morality effect”.
In the first study, participants were asked to choose which side of the screen had more numbers of dots. Rather than being rewarded for correct answers, they were given money based on which side of the screen they chose; they were paid 10 times more if they chose the right side of the screen. This meant that even if the left side of the screen held more dots, choosing the other side would prove they were lying to gain financial reward.
The results revealed those tested between 8am and noon were less likely to cheat compared to those tested between 12pm and 6pm.
The second experiment required participants to complete the words ” _ _RAL” and “E_ _ _ C_ _”. Those tested in the morning were more likely to form the words “MORAL” and “ETHICAL”, while those in the afternoon formed “CORAL” and “EFFECTS”.
Both researchers said organisations need to be “more vigilant about combating the unethical behaviour of customers or employees in the afternoon than in the morning”.
“Whether you are personally trying to manage your own temptations, or you are a parent, teacher, or leader worried about the unethical behaviour of others, our research suggests that it can be important to take something as seemingly mundane as the time of day into account,” they said.
Human Resources magazine and the HR Bulletin daily email newsletter:
Asia's only regional HR print and digital media brand.
Register for your FREE subscription now »