American researchers have found
that people are more likely to be unethical when they have lower energy levels.
According to the research carried
out by academics from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington,
'The Morality Of Larks And Owls', there is a significant relation between
ethical decision-making and people's chronotype.
After examining the behavior of
almost 200 people in tests and games, the researchers observed people who rise
with the lark are more likely to lie and cheat in the evening. Similarly, night
owls are more likely to behave "unethically" in the morning.
The research also states that
the early-rising 'larks' were more honest in the morning, while night 'owls'
were more honest in the evening.
The study explains that when a
person's energy levels are depleted dishonorable temptations become harder and
harder to resist.
The summary of the research,
published in the Harvard Business Review
states, "in contrast to the assumption that good people typically do good
things, and bad people do bad things, there is mounting evidence that good
people can be unethical and bad people can be ethical, depending on the
pressures of the moment."
Building on previous research
that indicated people become more unethical as the day wears on, the
researchers examined the relationship between energy patterns and ethics.
The research used financial
rewards of up to $10 for finishing tests against time and contests with the
prospect of bigger prizes. Researchers were closely monitoring how people
self-reported their results.
The increased level of
unfaithfulness was found when people were outside of their preferred time of
day. The study focused on the body's circadian rhythm, which controls wakefulness
and sleep and differs from person to person.
While some people naturally rise early and sleep late, some others tend
to sleep early and rise late.
Prof Sah, an assistant
professor of business ethics at Georgetown University as well as a research
fellow at Harvard, says that the findings have major implications for
workplaces relying on ethical decisions and honesty - particularly where there
are shift patterns.
"It raises questions about
working hours and the structure of the working day if people's decision making
is affected by their chronotype," she added.