The Time Of Day You're Most Likely To Cheat

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We’ve all been there: We arrive at the office at 9 AM, bright-eyed and ready to take on the day. We proceed to eat a nice, healthy breakfast, bang out some stellar work and are totally pleasant to our colleagues. It's like going to work is actually fun!

But then, 3 PM hits, and everything changes — we’re snappy, unfocused, and hitting the vending machine hard. We fall into a mid-afternoon slump, which not only affects your work ethic but makes it hard to focus.

While this scenario might seem more like your daily dossier instead of being scientific, it actually is.

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In 2013, research suggested that mornings really are the time of day when we’re at our absolute best.

And by the afternoon, after we're worn out from our earlier attempts at being angelic, we’re more likely to lie, cheat, or indulge in lazy behavior.

“From the moment people wake up in the morning, daily life requires the exertion of self-control,” wrote the study authors, Maryan Kouchaki and Isaac Smith of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. “In deciding what to eat for breakfast, where to go and why, or even what to say and to whom, people regulate and control their desires and impulses.

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“Normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one’s capacity to resist moral temptations,” they also wrote. “In other words, people are more likely to act ethically and to overcome temptation in the morning than later in the day.”

The 2013 study, published in the journal Psychological Science, added to past research that has suggested self-control isn’t an infinite resource. By the afternoon, we’ve pretty much run out of it.

The authors tested this theory by setting up a pretty basic experiment where undergrad students were paid money to answer a question in a certain way, whether the answer was true or not, and they found that the participants in the afternoon sessions answered dishonestly.

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In another experiment, people were given a choice to read some intelligent fare (The New York Review of Books), or some super-light stuff (People magazine).

Nearly 60 percent of the volunteers in the afternoon sessions chose to go with the light reading, People magazine, whereas only 40 percent chose the gossip in the morning.

So, what does this mean for you? It basically just means that it’s key to be aware of our afternoon shortcomings and to then try to organize our days accordingly.

Challenging work or work that includes a moral component should probably be done in the morning, while work that requires less amount of focus should be saved for the afternoon, which is when we're much more likely to slip into a serious slump.

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Perrie Samotin is a freelance fashion, beauty, and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Twitter.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in November 2013.

This article was originally published at StyleCaster. Reprinted with permission from the author.