The Morning Morality Effect
The Influence of Time of Day on Unethical Behavior
- Maryam Kouchaki1 Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
- Isaac H. Smith2 Department of Management, University of Utah
Author Contributions M. Kouchaki and I. H. Smith developed the study concept, designed the study, collected and analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript. Both authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.
Are people more moral in the morning than in the afternoon? We propose that the normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one’s capacity to resist moral temptations. In a series of four experiments, both undergraduate students and a sample of U.S. adults engaged in less unethical behavior (e.g., less lying and cheating) on tasks performed in the morning than on the same tasks performed in the afternoon. This morning morality effect was mediated by decreases in moral awareness and self-control in the afternoon. Furthermore, the effect of time of day on unethical behavior was found to be stronger for people with a lower propensity to morally disengage. These findings highlight a simple yet pervasive factor (i.e., the time of day) that has important implications for moral behavior.