Photographed by Sarah Kerens.
Think that the dreaded afternoon slump is just bad for your concentration? New research suggests it's even worse for your moral compass.
The study conducted by Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith, of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center of Ethics, suggests that each individual’s capacity for self-control is finite. Well, of course it is. No one has endless patience. But, specifically, researchers began to figure out how long it takes for people's self-control to run out. When that limit is exceeded, morals can loosen.
The authors explain that all the regulation of desire we must engage throughout the day — we choose oatmeal instead of a chocolate croissant for breakfast, to allow an older gentleman to sit down instead of us on the train — adds up. And, once we reach a certain limit, we might start slipping just a little. To quote them, “In other words, people are more likely to act ethically and to overcome temptation in the morning than later in the day.”
The authors tested this theory by setting up a simple experiment where students were paid money to answer a question in a certain way — whether the answer was true or not. What did they find? That, compared to the students tested in the morning, more students in the afternoon sessions answered dishonestly.
But, what does it all mean for us in the real world? Well, both Kouchaki and Smith suggest that the results could have far reaching implications for us all, “The morning morality effect has notable implications...and it suggests that morally relevant tasks should be deliberately ordered throughout the day.” Want an honest answer out of someone? Better schedule that meeting for the morning. (NBC News)