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People Become More Dishonest as the Day Goes By, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 01, 2013 04:01 PM EDT

Even though mornings can be groggy at first, once people are ready to take on the day, they can feel quite optimistic. However, as the hours pass by and people encounter more and more problems that cause stress, their optimistic viewpoint might feel like a memory. In a new study, researchers found that as the day passes by, people become more dishonest and lazy.

"From the moment people wake up in the morning, daily life requires the exertion of self-control. In deciding what to eat for breakfast, where to go and why, or even what to say and to whom, people regulate and control their desires and impulses," the study authors wrote according to NBC News. "Normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one's capacity to resist moral temptations. In other words, people are more likely to act ethically and to overcome temptation in the morning than later in the day."

The research team composed of Maryan Jouchaki and Isaac Smith from Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics recruited 62 undergrads that were either signed up for a morning session or an afternoon session. The research team devised an experiment that tested whether or not people would cheat to get paid. The researchers found that the participants in the afternoon session, which took place between noon and six in the evening, cheated more frequently than the people in the morning session, which was between eight and noon.

The researchers also conducted another experiment in which they gave participants the option to choose between reading brain the New York Review of Books or People magazine. They found that 60 percent of the afternoon class choose the lighter reading option, People magazine. Only 40 percent of the people in the morning picked the same magazine.

"Our message is simple yet important," the researchers stated. "The morning morality effect has notable implications for individuals and organizations, and its suggests that morally relevant tasks should be deliberately ordered throughout the day."

The study was published in Psychological Science.

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