You're either 100 percent authentic maple syrup or Aunt Jemima's all the way. You're a fresh-air fiend or an AC addict. You pop up with the sunrise or feel invigorated by moonlight. Well...actually, the issue of whether you're a morning person or an evening person isn't that clear-cut. Many people fall in between these extremes in chronotype, meaning the sleep-and-wake rhythms hardwired into each of us. But we know that chronotype is a biological prix-fixe (although environmental factors may contribute, too). And we know that it does more than regulate our yawning-and-stretching schedules. Increasingly, research depicts chronotype as relevant to fluctuations in mood and moral behavior. Yup, the ways we think and feel run on a timetable, too.
Unfortunately, night people tend to get the short end of the stick in chronobiology, the emerging field of science concerning the biological rhythms that underlie the timing and duration of various physiological and mental processes. Statistically, for example, late-night lovers are at a heightened risk for depression and addiction. Basically, it's hard to be a pm person in an am world.
But, maybe morning people get more credit than they deserve. In one soon-to-be-published study, presented earlier this month at SLEEP 2016, researchers at the University of Arizona set out to assess emotional intelligence by chronotype and found that morning people think they're more emotionally intelligent than they actually are.
Psychologists talk about two types of emotional intelligence, which refers to our capacity both to understand our own feelings and take the temperature of the room, so to speak. "Trait" emotional intelligence is measured through self-ratings of statements (e.g., "I feel that I handle stress well"). To determine "ability" emotional intelligence, people have to pinpoint the most emotionally intelligent solution to problems in hypothetical situations. (But they don't know they're taking a test about emotional intelligence.)
So, for the study, participants completed assessments for both types of emotional intelligence, and filled out chronotype questionnaires. Morning and evening types scored roughly the same on the objectively scored ability measure. But morning types scored much higher on the trait assessment.
"That basically just means that [morning people] think they’re more emotionally intelligent," said Jess Markowski, a graduate student and study co-author who presented the research. "And they might be, but they may also just have more confidence in themselves in that respect. We didn't collect any personality assessments, but it would be interesting to look at confidence between morning and evening types."
Markowski deemed the findings surprising because previous research has actually shown that evening types score higher than their dawn-loving counterparts on objective measures of emotional intelligence. But, she said their results, as well as results from previous work, aren't well-understood. They also performed brain scans and are awaiting the results of neuroimaging data, which could help them form a hypothesis about the neurobiological basis of chronotype-dependent personality differences.
Their research should be published within the next few months. Until then, stay cocky, larks.