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'Creatures of the night' not to be laughed at

liverpool at night Friday 19 September 2014

The recently awarded Ig Nobel prize, given to 'celebrate the unusual' and 'honour the imaginative' in academic research, was awarded to two researchers who carried out their work whilst at Liverpool Hope. Dr Davide Bruno explains why, once the laughter has died down, the implications of their research deserve serious consideration.  

Recent Liverpool Hope University graduate, Ms Amy Jones, and former member of Liverpool Hope University Psychology Department, Dr Minna Lyons, were last night awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Psychology in a ceremony at Harvard University. The prize, awarded annually and handed out by actual Nobel Prize winners, is given to researchers whose publications are deemed to be both funny and thought-provoking.

Amy and Minna received the award for work published on the Journal of Personality and Individual differences where they examined the personality characteristics of nocturnal people (Jonason, P. K., Jones, A., & Lyons, M. (2013) "Creatures of the night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad traits," Personality and Individual Differences55, 538-541) – in other words, the owls, those among us who do not like going to sleep early.

The authors of “Creatures of the night” set out to test whether individuals with a nocturnal chronotype – people who prefer evening-time activities to doing things in the morning, and are more alert later in the day than earlier – tended to display a personality type that is consistent with the so-called dark triad.

The dark triad personality triumvirate of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism (listen to our Podcast on the subject for more information) describes individuals who tend to be manipulative and self-centred.

The authors postulated that people of a dark triadic disposition would be more likely to strive in the dark hours of the night, when morning-types are ripe for the dupe, and the low light favours the shadier activities (although you should always turn the light on before putting your hand in the cookie jar).  

Indeed, after testing 263 male and female participants online, Jones and colleagues confirmed that night owls were more likely to be associated with the darker end of the dark triad spectrum, especially Machiavellianism, secondary psychopathy, and exploitive narcissism.

Their conclusion, grounded in evolutionary psychology, is that those with darker personalities tend to specialize in night-time activities to optimize their chances of success.

Thus, although this piece of research may appear ‘ridiculous’ at first, it actually carries within it a serious message worthy of further reflection. In this sense, this paper indeed is deserving of the Ig Nobel Prize. 


Dr Davide Bruno ‌Dr Davide Bruno is a Lecturer in Psychology at Liverpool Hope.

 Read his full research profile 

 Psychology at Liverpool Hope University

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