We’re thinking of confining our interrogations to the morning from now on; new researchers suggests that our ability to exhibit self-control and keep a handle on our dishonesty is diminished over the course of the day.
The research, published in Psychological Science, found that it’s easier to resist opportunities to lie, cheat, and steal in the morning than it is in the afternoon. Researchers had college-aged participants look at patterns of dots on a computer. For each pattern, they had to indicate whether there were more on the left or the right side of the screen, and were paid for each answer. Crucially, indicating that the dots were on the right side of the screen resulted in ten times the pay-out as the left side, giving them incentive to cheat. Participants who were tested in the morning were more likely to remain honest than those tested in the afternoon, even though cheating is fun and, in this case, financially rewarding.
Of course, the so-called “morning morality effect”, though interesting and useful, isn’t fool-proof or guaranteed. Just head to a dealership; they’ll be happy to bilk you morning, noon, or night.