Morning people ("larks") are more punctual than "owls"

You’ve probably heard that sleep psychologists like to divide people up into those who function optimally in the morning, and those who come alive at night (but see also). The former, “larks”, tend to get up and go to bed earlier than “owls”. A new study asks whether larks also tend to be more punctual people than owls – surprisingly, this is the first time anyone has examined this link.

Laura Werner and her team waited as nearly 300 students arrived for their 8.15am morning lectures on 14 different courses at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. The students’ time of arrival was noted and they were given surveys on personality, their chronotype (i.e. lark vs. owl), their punctuality in general, and their means of transport to university.

The students who were larks tended to arrive more punctually for their morning lectures. Other measures of personality, such as conscientiousness, had no association with lecture punctuality. As an owl myself, I thought it was a bit harsh to gauge punctuality with a morning lecture, but then the researchers did also ask the students about their general punctuality, and again chronotype was the key factor, explaining 12 per cent of the variance. Conscientiousness was only associated with self-reported punctuality when chronotype was omitted from the analysis.

The importance of chronotype was reduced once transport method was taken into account. Students arriving on foot or bike were generally later than those arriving by car or public transport, a result that will astonish British readers accustomed to traffic jams and trains with perfect records for being late.

As this is the first ever study to examine the links between being a lark or owl and being punctual, it’s obviously not the last word on the subject. We need more research in different contexts and with actual punctuality measured at different times of day. However, the new results do chime with past evidence that larks are more proactive people than owls.

Werner and her team ended on a self-deprecating note: “In our study based on lectures and university courses, we expect a lower commitment to punctuality compared to other types of appointment [come on profs, I’m sure your lectures aren’t that bad]. Punctuality may be therefore dependent on the situation, but nevertheless, morning people are expected to be punctual across different situations and appointments.”


Werner, L., Geisler, J., & Randler, C. (2014). Morningness as a Personality Predictor of Punctuality Current Psychology, 34 (1), 130-139 DOI: 10.1007/s12144-014-9246-1

further reading
Early risers are more proactive than evening people
Owls get poorer school grades than larks
Creatures of the night – people who favour the evening score higher on Dark Triad personality traits

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest