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Psychol Sci. 2014 Jan;25(1):95-102. doi: 10.1177/0956797613498099. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

The morning morality effect: the influence of time of day on unethical behavior.

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1Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University.


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.


cheating; ego depletion; moral disengagement; morality; self-control; time of day

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