Night Owls Are Not Very Punctual

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Great Grey Owl Yawning, Ontario, Canada.
Great Gray Owl yawning, Ontario, Canada.Photo: J. David Andrews/Masterfile/Corbis

Late to bed, late for everything else: a lesser-known proverb. According to a study published in the March edition of Current Psychology, night owls are less punctual than their early-rising peers — at least, when you ask them to be somewhere at 8:15 a.m., which hardly seems like a fair fight. 

The findings were highlighted this morning by psychologist Christian Jarrett at the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, and Jarrett takes us through the way the researchers did their study: 

[The researchers] waited as nearly 300 students arrived for their 8:15 a.m. morning lectures on 14 different courses at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. The students’ time of arrival was noted and they were given surveys on personality, their chronotype (i.e. lark vs. owl), their punctuality in general, and the means of transport to university. 

The students who were larks tended to arrive more punctually for their morning lectures. Other measures of personality, such as conscientiousness, had no association with lecture punctuality. 

I’d personally like to see the experiment replicated in the afternoon; as someone who tends toward the night-owl end of the spectrum, I know it’s often a struggle for me to make it somewhere on time in the morning, but later in the day I tend to be early rather than late. (Though the researchers did ask the students about their punctuality habits in general, and, again, found an association between staying up late and running late.)

Jarrett points out that this is only the first study to examine the association between chronotypes and punctuality, so it’ll be interesting to see what further research uncovers. For now, at least, it gives us a new understanding of our night-owl mayor and his struggle to get places on time.