Well Being

Night Owls Are More Intelligent (Maybe) But Perform Worse At School

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Woman using laptop in bed at night

A recent study on teenagers in Madrid explored the relationship between students' tendencies towards being a “night owl” or a “lark” and their academic performance. And…

“The results showed that evening types scored higher than morning types on inductive reasoning, which has been shown to be a good estimate of general intelligence and one of the strongest predictors of academic performance. A further piece of good news for the owls is that inductive reasoning is linked to innovative thinking and more prestigious occupations, and tends to earn higher incomes…

The study also found that night owls' school achievement was rated lower than that of larks, by about 8 per cent. The researchers suggested that evening types might be adversely affected by morning school schedules.”

It's not surprising that night people don't do as well at things – like school – that take place in the morning and which in effect cause them to be generally sleep-deprived.

The finding about night owls' better inductive reasoning is more interesting. But who buys this sketchy evolutionary explanation?

“One theory to explain the extra brain power of night owls is that intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal because in ancestral times any activities at night would have been novel and would, therefore, have been more likely to attract people with inquisitive minds.”

I'm tired of wild speculation about our evolutionary origins. Presumably novel activities would also have been available during the daytime hours, when prehistoric children would have been able to see what they were doing? It's ok to admit you're not sure what explains the findings, scientists. Go do some more science and figure it out!

And hey, didn't we just get finished talking about how much better at productivity morning people are? (I'm thinking especially of Laura Vanderkam and her work regarding “what the most successful people do before breakfast”). I was briefly inspired by blog posts across the internet on this topic. Then I woke up extra early to get things done… maybe once? In a pinch?

At this point, I'm sick of worrying about whether I am (or should become) either a morning or night person. Fact is, I seem to be somewhere in the middle (“afternoon person?”), and you might be too. Some of your intelligence is genetic, and some is acquired through experience. Some of your productivity is related to choosing a schedule that works for you, but some is due to tips and tricks and lifehacking and plain old willpower.

So basically, if you're a confirmed night owl, try not to pick a job that (like school) requires you to perform at your best in the morning. And everyone, get enough hours of high-quality sleep consistently, at the times that work for you, to maximize whatever brain power you've got. Other than that, let's just calm down about the whole thing night/morning thing already?

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