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 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.