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Good Morning! Your Moral Fiber Is Eroding by the Minute

Good Morning! Your Moral Fiber Is Eroding by the Minute
Photograph by Ronald Grant/Paramount via Everett Collection

Right now, as I write this, I am at peak integrity, but with every minute that passes, my moral fiber is weakening, like a cereal flake in milk. I don’t notice it, but if there are decisions or tasks requiring personal discipline, I should take care of them quickly—by this afternoon, I will be defenseless against my baser instincts.

So say Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith, researchers into organizational behavior, in a new paper in the journal Psychological Science. The idea that people can be more or less moral at different times goes back to the earliest recorded stories people told about each other: Achilles is both merciless killer and tender friend, Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde. What’s notable about the hypothesis Kouchaki and Smith set out to  prove is that a person’s moral upstandingness erodes over the course of each day, broken down in a process as regular and as ineluctable as digestion.