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Night owls are more likely to be jerks, suggests a new study

July 29, 2013 at 11:02 AM ET

Video: Whether you like to burn the midnight oil or rise and shine early can say more about your personality than you may have guessed. NBC’s Carson Daly reports on the traits tied to early risers and night owls, and psychologist Xavier Amador adds perspective.

"Good morning!" chirp your coworkers. "Ungh mngh," you reply. Night owls sometimes feel a little darker, a little meaner when compared to their bright-eyed, early bird counterparts, and new research suggests there may be something to that.

A new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences links a tendency to stay up late with what psychologists call the "Dark Triad" of personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. The study authors, led by Peter K. Johnson of the University of Western Sydney in Australia, write:

We propose that in order to best enact a “cheater strategy” those high on the Dark Triad traits should have optimal cognitive performance and, thus, have a night-time chronotype. Such a disposition will take advantage of the low light, the limited monitoring, and the lessened cognitive processing of morning-type people.

On TODAY this morning, psychologist Xavier Amador discussed the study with Carson Daly.

"I thought this study had some merit, because there’s 20 years of research on these three personality traits, the so called dark triad – Machavillian, narcissistic, psychopathic," Amador says. But he points out that this study -- and almost all others like it -- are conducted on college students, who have different sleeping patterns from the rest of us. And, obviously, there are a few things other than middle-of-the-night mischief that might keep someone up habitually late, like working a swing shift, for one.

Anyway, he agrees with Daly that night owls tend to be more fun. "I think we are," Amador told Daly. "I'm a night owl -- I'm up early for this."

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