The student who hates mornings, who won’t sign up for an 8 a.m. class, might well be forging a career path and forecasting long-term job performance.
A new study distributed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine injects a new consideration into the theory that people’s internal body clocks influence their “morningness” or “eveningness.”
The study authored by Frederick Brown, an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University, suggests that this “lark” versus “owl” tendency — whether caused by nature or nurture — appears to influence students’ choices of college majors.
And that could have long-range job consequences. For instance, if a night owl avoids early morning classes, and all pre-med chemistry prerequisites are taught at 8 a.m., it’s unlikely that student will choose to become a doctor.
Brown had a group of students complete evaluations to rank their “morningness” or “eveningness” tendencies. It then looked at their major fields of study.
“They end up with a declared major that depends on what they’re interested in, what they’re good at, what they might have fun with, and what they might want to do for the rest of their lives,” Brown said. “But they also pay attention to when they’ll have to work.”
Brown found, for example, that students with high “eveningness” scores, gravitate to such majors as the performance arts, media or information systems, where work hours skew later in the day or even overnight.
A student’s “morningness-eveningness influence” involves personality traits and a built-in biological tolerance for early or late or irregular job hours, he said.
The connection between college majors and body clocks needs further investigation with larger samples, and that is beginning, Brown said.
“Some people are what we call ‘invulnerables,’” Brown said. “They get by on short sleep or disruptions for long periods. But one of our conclusions is that a mismatch of genetics and job characteristics is important.
“The genetic component is well-established,” he said. “About half the population are daytime people, about one-quarter are moderate to extreme morning types, and about one-quarter are moderate to extreme evening types.”
Knowing one’s own type is important for workers who want to maximize job performance, productivity and personal health.