I have officially found my new favorite study. It says this: more intelligent people stay up later than less intelligent people. Finally, some researchers that make me feel good about a habit that makes everyone else look down their nose at me. Thank you!
No one knows what makes people like to stay up later, like I do, but here are a few reasons why staying up late is for smart people:
Time to daydream. This is sort of a “reverse” hypothesis (why staying up late makes you smarter, not why being smarter makes you stay up late). But it’s true that being up when everyone else is asleep means you have more time to think.
Anti-establishmentarianism. Staying up late is a subversive activity. Most people start in their teen years, as I did (and, alas, as my children are now doing), when to do you so you have to break your parents’ rules. Even into adulthood, there is a sense that you should be being “good” and going to sleep when the rest of the world does. And being out late at night is positively decadent. Anti-establishment types tend to question power structures and rules and rethink the usual way of doing things. You know… smart people things.
Open-mindedness. In an academic paper “Why the Night Owl is More Intelligent” published in the Journal of Psychology and Individual Differences, the author suggests that, evolutionarily, those who buck the trend of rising with the sun and going to sleep when darkness falls would also be open to other novel ideas. I’d be interested to see if this study would hold up with political progressives vs. conservatives. Maybe the answer is just banging pots and forcing them all to stay awake past their bedtimes? (Kidding, my dear conservatives!).
I always love scientific data to support my bad habits, but I do wonder if it’s ever this black and white. I’ve known plenty of smart early risers and people who never amounted to much who liked to stay up late into the night. While I’m intrigued by the suggestions of the studies, I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated as are most things about human psychology and intelligence.
Or, perhaps, I’m afraid to embrace this completely since, in my old age, I’m far less able to stay up as late as I used to. Does that mean I’m getting dumber as I get older? 😉
Check out what else the study shows that night owls get more of (wink!): click here.