How does your chronotype — whether you are a “morning person” or “night person” — relates to your intelligence and creativity? It a s tricky issue, especially when it comes to causality, or identifying causes and effects. There are so many variables involved.
There’s the challenge of measuring intelligence itself, your chronotype might be forced by the environment, finally – there is a great deal with finding the causal connection creating the measurable correlation. However! Scientific research does seem to show a general trend between night-owlism and intelligence and creativity. Here are the key takeaways:
Smarter people tend to prefer staying up late
A study measuring subjects’ verbal intelligence cross-referenced it against their chronotypes, was based on the hypothesis that more intelligent people prefer making the “evolutionary novel” choice to stay up late. Staying up at night wasn’t a reasonable thing for humans to do thousands of years ago. Hypothetically, smarties are more likely to be comfortable going against the grain and experimenting with a “new” behavior like going to bed late. That’s a good news for me, a night-owl, but is it anything more than heuristic bias?
Night owls performed better on some test… but not in the morning.
One study found that, on average, brighter people reported a preference for going to bed later and sleeping later into the day. Another small study found that night owls performed better than early birds on a drawing-based creativity test, while this study showed the same for inductive reasoning tests. It’s worth mentioning that the subjects did not do as well on tests in the early mornings, as apparently they were still waking up.
Night owls have more cognitive “lasting power” towards the end of the day
And yet another study found that morning people start to run out of cognitive energy sooner after waking up than night owls. In other words, after the same amount of sleep, if you are a night owl, it’s more probable for you to maintain your cognitive abilities as the day goes on.
Early birds show that where there’s a will, there’s a way
However, I’d like to cite this study. It shows that if you are an early bird, you tend to be proactive, disciplined person, and you have higher chances to be more successful from a career standpoint. There’s no free lunch, however. Waking up early can lead to higher overall stress levels than sleeping in, as this study suggested. Once you – an early bird – wake up early to map out your day, no surprise, it is very likely you get stressed about getting through it successfully. A night owl would be more likely to go with the flow and not worry about the list of scheduled activities as much. I must admit it suits me perfectly – my lack of discipline backfires at me, however, I tend not to worry too much about the future…
To summarize: the results seem to show night owls as intelligent and creative, especially when sustained performance throughout the day matters. However, if you need somebody trustworthy, scrupulous and punctual, you’d better choose early bird! The early birds are better with performance over a longer period of weeks or months, when task need more perspiration than inspiration. Or so goes the stereotypes based on small studies.
Keep in mind that the research outcomes depends on when that intelligence and creativity was measured. If you were going to bet on intelligence or creativity test results, you’d want to place your wager on an early bird if it’s a morning test and a night owl if it’s an evening test.
Which type are you? Do you agree or disagree on these hypotheses? Write your comment below!
The medical science liaison in Neuroon Open, Medical Doctor. I am interested in psychiatry, neuroscience, and epistemology. As a former biology-class teacher and a physician by profession, I try to explain complicated and non-trivial subjects of neuroscience and psychiatry in an easy-understandable fashion. I produce and play music in my free time.