3 Key Differences Between Evening and Morning People

Finally, research that addresses the myths about bedtimes.

Posted Aug 24, 2015

Syda Productions/Shutterstock
Source: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

While the night is still young for Night Owls, Early Birds are dreaming away in their sleep. But the differences between them may extend well beyond the time they go to bed. Larks are typically seen as conscientious, trustworthy, and emotionally stable. By contrast, owls are thought of as creative, emotionally unstable, and likelier to have troubled relationships with family and friends

But is there any truth to these commonly held notions?

Research demonstrates that there are some actual and far-reaching divergences between Early Birds and Night Owls. Here are 3 intriguing ways that larks and owls differ:

1. Personality.

Who has a “darker" personality? Apparently, owls. Researchers conducted an online study, with a sample of 263 university students who completed measures assessing their "Dark Triad" personality traits (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) and chronotype (the extent to which one is oriented towards the morning or the evening). The investigators found that significantly more men had Dark Triad traits, and that Dark Triad traits were correlated with an evening disposition. Interpreting the results from an evolutionary perspective, the investigators speculate that Dark Triad individuals exploit the dim light, limited monitoring, and the diminished alertness of morning types.

2. Creativity.

Who's more creative? Owls again. Consider a study that had larks and owls complete a measure of visual creativity. The factors that theoretically underlie this test are flexibility (the ability to move from one line of thinking to another), fluidity (the ability to generate many ideas that can assist in problem solving), originality (finding rare and unusual answers), and elaboration (the ability to extend a concept). The sample consisted of 52 men and 68 women, between the ages 19 and 76. The researchers found that evening types had higher scores on flexibility, fluidity, and originality.

3. Punctuality.

Who's more likely to show up on time? Larks. Researchers observed the arrivals of university students for their first class of the day, at 8:15 am. Participants also filled out questionnaires that assessed the traits of morningness, punctuality, and a short version of the Big Five Personality Test. The sample was made up of 267 individuals, with an average age of almost 23. The results were telling: Morning types and conscientious students (according to the personality assessment) scored higher on the self-report questionnaire of punctuality. Moreover, when it came to actual arrival time, only the morning scores tended to be associated with the time the students showed up for class.

You can find Dr. Mehta's other Psychology Today posts here. Connect with Dr. Mehta on the web at: drvinitamehta.com and on twitter and Pinterest!

Vinita Mehta, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Washington, D.C., and an expert on relationships, managing anxiety and stress, and building health and resilience. Dr. Mehta provides speaking engagements for your organization and psychotherapy for adults. She has successfully worked with individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, and life transitions, with a growing specialization in recovery from trauma and abuse. She is also the author of the forthcoming book, Paleo Love: How Our Stone Age Bodies Complicate Modern Relationships.

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