If you get out of bed easily, feel the most alert before noon, and do your best work around breakfast time, then you exhibit what personality psychologists call morningness. Eveningness, as you might guess, is characterized by the opposite: feeling most alive at night, preferring to do things in the afternoon at the earliest, and totally chill about sleeping in late.
In a new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, CUNY psychologist Anastasiya Lipnevich and her colleagues did a meta-analysis to see how morningness and eveningness are linked with the Big Five personality traits of conscientiousness, or dutifully taking care of things; extraversion, or being sensitive to social rewards; neuroticism, or being sensitive to threats; agreeableness, or needing to get along with people; and openness to experience, or really liking new thoughts, feelings, places, humans, adventures. The researchers combined the findings of 44 different nonclinical samples for a total of 16,647 individuals.
The analysis found, first of all, that morningness and eveningness are distinct from the Big Five traits, which have a habit of gobbling up niche personality constructs. They also found that people high in eveningness tend to be less conscientious than the morning-oriented. In something of an irony, previous research has shown that eveningness was linked to high cognitive ability, yet early risers do better in school. It’s a conflict that “makes intuitive sense because evening-oriented individuals are at a great disadvantage because our society is not aligned with their preferences,” Lipnevich tells Science of Us in an email. Extraversion and openness to experience had moderate links with eveningness, too.
Like most facets of personality, extremes are rare: Just 10 to 15 percent of the population is only a morning or evening person. And they’re not mutually exclusive: Between 70 and 80 percent of people exhibit characteristics of both morningness and eveningness, Lipnevich says; you could even be high in morningness and eveningness, and have energy at both times, or be low in either — with lots of energy in the afternoon, or not at all.
Both morning- and evening-orientation and personality traits have a degree of fluidity to them. The majority of children are morningful, Lipnevich and her colleagues report, though that changes in adolescence, with eveningness peaking around age 20; morningness increases after age 50. (Add this to the argument that schools should start later.) Time of day matters, too: Extroversion may be partially defined by what hour it is, Lipnevich explained, since evening people probably have more opportunities to socialize. Add this to the list of reasons New York is crowded with bars.