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Night Owls Are Shady, Says Science

A new study points to late-nighters as more likely to have "Dark Triad" traits. Yikes!

July 29th, 2013

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Night Owls Are Shady, Says Science

It seems intuitively obvious that people who prefer to roam around at all hours of the night would be sneaky and shady. Vampires. Burglars. Wall Street bros. These are the people you have to look out for.

Looks like there's some science behind this notion. A study published in the September 2013 issue of Personality and Individual Differences found that night owls are more likely to have "Dark Triad" traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. Quick psych refresh: Narcissists feed on others' energy to build up their sense of self-worth, psychopaths have a diminished sense of remorse, and Machiavellianism is used to describe duplicity, aka backstabbing.

Sounds like a pretty awesome trio, right?

MORE: Are You a Narcissist?

In the study, 263 volunteers responded to scales measuring each individual characteristic (sample psychopathy question: "I think I could beat a lie detector.’’), and then a sleep scale to determine their chronotypes (night owl vs. morning lark).

The Dark Triad was correlated with the nighttime chronotype.

It's possible that nocturnal activity is an adaptive trait that arms late-nighters with the cognitive ability and opportunity to, under the cloak of darkness and fewer people around to notice, get away with more. At least that's what some evolutionary psychologists say, so don't shoot the messenger.

Some even go so far as to say that every night is a battle between night owls, who are plotting to get ahead, and the morning larks, who are too sleepy to do anything about it. Nuts, right?!

"But I'm a night owl and I'm a very nice person!" you might say. We don't doubt it. YouBeauty Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D. says, "Overall, the three personality traits correlated with a measure of how late you stay up at less than .2, which means that these traits are very weakly correlated with being a night owl. And there are plenty of people who are early to bed and early to rise who have these traits."

He also points out that it might not be genetic (you stay up late, therefore you have these traits) but learned (you have these traits, therefore you choose to stay up late).

In other words, everyone has it in them to be a cold-calculating, self-absorbed overlord. Isn't that comforting?

MORE: How to Spot a Psychopath

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