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Love the Night Shift? You Might Have Sociopathic Tendencies.


Most nurses have to work through the night at some point during their careers. But there are always a few nurses who volunteer for the night shift for one reason or another. They may have responsibilities during the day such as raising kids or going to school, but others simply love the thrill of working past regular hours. 

Things tend to slow down when the darkness sets in. The visitors and doctors usually head home as the patients go to sleep. You’re one of the only people working, giving you more freedom and privacy to do as you please.

But people who enjoy being up late may have sociopathic tendencies, according to study from researchers from Britain and Australia. They found that night owls tend to have the so-called Dark Triad of personality traits. These traits tend to be associated with:

  • Narcissism, the need to dominate and a sense of entitlement
  • Psychopathy, the willingness to manipulate people with some sense of social charm
  • Machiavellianism, a tendency for impulsivity and regular antagonism toward other people

The researchers argue that nighttime environments tend to feature less light, reducing visibility, which gives night owls more opportunities to act out. Cognitive abilities tend to decline at night as well, which may suit their propensity for impulsivity.

“Such features of the night may facilitate the casual sex, mate-poaching, and risk-taking the Dark Triad traits are linked to,” they argue.

That might be a stretch for nurses, who are just trying to earn a living, but it’s true that nurses on the nightshift receive less supervision than their daytime colleagues.

“Those high on the Dark Triad may be characterized by cognitive biases that orient them to occupy an environment that will facilitate their life history strategy,” the authors conclude. “In short, those high on the Dark Triad traits like many other predators (e.g., lions, African hunting dogs, scorpions), are creatures of the night.”

The researchers asked 263 volunteers to take an online survey about their personality traits. It tested for a range of attributes, including narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. People who scored high on the Dark Triad traits also tended to stay up late.

The survey asked participants to state how much they agreed with statements such as, “I have a natural talent for influencing people” (a sign of narcissism), “I enjoy driving at high speeds” or “I think I could beat a lie detector test” (a sign of psychopathy); and “it is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there” (a sign of Machiavellianism).

The paper even won the Ig Nobel Prize, reserved for surprising or significant scientific discoveries, in 2014 for “amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.”

It makes sense in a way, considering staying up late gives you more opportunities to exhibit socially unacceptable behavior or act on your instincts. The divide between morning and night people is nothing new. They each have their pros and cons. Night owls tend to feel most productive in the evening or at night, while early risers feel most energized right after they wake up. However, morning people tend to possess traits associated with leadership and authority. They also exhibit a greater openness for change.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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