Psychological Study: Coffee Helps You Stay Honest

(Coffee Time t-shirt now on sale at the NeatoShop)

Caffeine--it's nature's wonder drug! And it's best consumed with coffee, often by spooning the grounds directly from the can into your mouth at 3 AM as a deadline nears.

It also makes you more honest. Well, kind of. Michael Christian, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina, studied 171 sleep deprived nurses. Those who had some sweet, sweet caffeine flowing through their veins tended to be more honest than those who didn't. Anne Fisher of Forbes reports:

For this study -- which, by the way, wasn't sponsored by Starbucks -- volunteers who had been kept awake all night were divided into two groups. All were asked to chew gum in the morning, but one group got a plain wintergreen placebo, while the other chomped on gum laced with 200 milligrams of caffeine, or about the same amount that's in two cups of black coffee.

The participants were then put in situations where researchers "encouraged them to go along with a lie in order to earn some extra money," Christian says. "We tried to replicate a situation where a boss or a peer was pressuring them to cut ethical corners at work."

The results: Those who got the extra boost of caffeine consistently balked when researchers urged them to cheat, while those who were just exhausted -- and had chewed the non-caffeinated gum -- showed a marked willingness to cast conscience aside and go along with the deception.

Employers who want to reduce the likelihood of misbehavior should make sure people aren't putting in too many long hours without a break and "avoid scheduling tasks that require a great deal of self-control when looming deadlines make long hours unavoidable," the study concludes. Two other suggestions: Put in nap rooms at the office and don't skimp on the free coffee.

-via The Hairpin


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