Time-of-day preference was responsible for personality differences in eating behaviors, according to recent findings.
“What we did was try to determine how much of that relationship between personality and its predictive power is funneled through people’s time-of-day preference, because personality has been related to time-of day preference, with conscientious people being more morning people and extraverts being more evening people,” researcher Andrew N. Christopher, PhD, of the department of Psychology at Albion College in Michigan, told Healio Psychiatry.
In the study, Christopher and colleagues surveyed 279 participants (151 men and 128 women) recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk worker pool. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 82 years and had an average BMI of 26.23. Study participants completed personality trait, eating and time-of-day preference questionnaires.
The researchers found that time-of-day preference explained differences in eating behaviors, especially uncontrolled eating, in three of the Big Five personality differences’ eating behaviors — conscientiousness, neuroticism and extraversion (P<.001).
When they analyzed time-of day-preference using the model analyzing conscientiousness, time-of-day preference was more likely to be associated with uncontrolled eating than conscientiousness. However, the negative correlation between conscientiousness and uncontrolled eating persisted.
Morningness was related to healthier eating habits and participants with conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion traits preferred mornings, while neurotic individuals preferred evenings, according to the researchers. The association of extraversion with morningness contradicted the researchers’ hypothesis.
“We did find that extroverts in this study tended to be more morning people than in previous research, so we thought that was interesting,” Christopher said.
Agreeableness was not associated with time-of-day preference, so the researchers conducted no further analyses. They also did not assess openness because it was not considered a trait related to uncontrolled eating or time-of-day preference.
In the future, Christopher and colleagues may explore whether agreeable personality traits eat more over the holidays, specifically in social settings.
“It would be interesting to do this study during the holidays and look specifically at a holiday party or family gathering,” Christopher said. “Because then agreeable people will want that social interaction. It’s the norm during the holidays to eat too much, unfortunately.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.