We know that self-control is a finite resource. For example, you're on a diet. You're using up a lot of your self-control on not eating unhealthy foods -- salads for lunch -- but you might have a few more glasses of wine at that happy hour/networking event than you otherwise might given that your self-control is being devoted to your diet. Controlling smoking, drinking, eating, whathaveyou, these can all be self-control depleters.
Marie-Lan Nguyen Socrates - A Paragon of Self-Control
Now, some new research finds that ethical conduct might fall into this category as well. In a new paper (gated) by Harvard and University of Utah researchers, they find:
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.More »