(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) — Caffeine as the ultimate truth serum? It certainly seems to make people less inclined to be dishonest when they feel tired, according to three professors from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Co-author Michael Christian says that sleep deprivation weakens people’s resolve to be ethically strong, such as when a supervisor tells a worker to do something that’s not entirely on the up-and-up.
In fact, Christian and his colleagues speculate that people who work the hardest are the most susceptible to the power of suggestion because they also tend to be the most tired, thus increasing both hostility and dishonesty.
In an experiment, 171 nurses who worked long shifts were divided into two group in which one received plain chewing gum while the other chewed gum laced with caffeine that was the equivalent of two cups of coffee.
When encouraged to “go along with a lie in order to earn some extra money,” the caffeinated group consistently refused to accede to the request.
Christian says this shows that “caffeine can help you resist by strengthening your self-control and willpower when you’re exhausted.” Just the same, the researchers recommend employers don’t overwork their workers or put them in positions when significant control is needed when long hours can’t be avoided.
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