Half-past truth

Everybody lies, or tells untruths, and if they tell you that they don’t…they’re lying. For better or worse, lying is a natural part of the human condition because at some level we all know that we would burn in the flames of truth if we lived in that fire alone. You don’t really want people to tell you that you are looking like a cat slept in your hair last night. What you want is a nice little lie about your new hairstyle so you can get on and function during your day. Yet while lies are common currency of communication we also value and need truth, on some occasions moreso than others. It helps then to be able to gauge when you are being told the truth and when you are not. Apparently, according to new research, all you need to do is look at your watch.

The researchers who discovered this started from the premise that self-control is like a muscle; it reduces the more you use it and can be depleted by lack of rest. So if this is true then you might expect that people would lose their ability to control themselves and stop themselves from telling lies as the day goes on.

To test this people were given a morality test that involved them being shown a number of dots on the left and right hand sides of a computer screen. The people were asked to identify whether more dots appeared on the left or right hand side of the screen. The subjects were paid for this, not based on how many correct answers they gave but instead on which side the screen they chose. They were paid ten times the amount for selecting the right side over the left side. So there was an incentive to choose the right side even though this would obviously be cheating and lying.

The results showed that people tested between 8am and midday were less likely to lie than those tested between midday and 6pm. The researchers called this the “morning morality effect”. As a follow up to their initial study they did another that tested moral awareness in the morning and afternoon. This involved showing the subjects word fragments like, “_ _ RAL” and “E _ _ _ C _ _”. When asked to complete these words subjects were more likely to complete them as “moral” and “ethical” in the morning whereas in the afternoon there was a tendency to form words like “coral” and “effects”. This suggests that there may be something more than mere moral fatigue happening. Could it be that afternoons somehow foster lying and chicanery?

Whatever the nature of it, the lesson here is to sign those agreements and ask those big questions in the morning.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

You May Also Like

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 24t110216.057

What to eat for balanced emotions

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 17t143950.232

Inside the spirituality database

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 04 26t150353.669

The Positive Power of Pets

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 (2)

Soothing Inflamed Brains