Not getting enough sleep has been shown to affect people in many ways: decreasing alertness, increasing stress, and more. New research from the University of Hawai’i Mānoa Shidler College of Business has linked sleep deprivation to engaging in prejudicial or stereotyping behaviors. There is a lot of evidence indicating that sleep loss negatively affects behavior, mood, and other cognitive skills. This research builds on existing data to analyze how a lack of sleep and stereotyping or prejudicial behaviors are related.

Researchers Sonia Ghumman and C. M. Barnes surveyed nearly 400 undergraduate students across three studies. Each study focused on illuminating some aspect of stereotyping behaviors and insufficient sleep.

In the first study, subjects were shown a photo of a Muslim woman and asked to describe a typical day in her life. When students were more sleep-deprived, they were more likely to ascribe stereotypical actions to her.

The second study involved asking students to review resumes that had stereotypically “black” or “white” sounding names. Students were asked which candidate seemed more qualified for a hypothetical job. Once again, students lacking sleep were more likely to make a decision based on stereotypes and they rated the black candidate as less qualified than the white. This is an important finding for how sleep might be influencing biases during the hiring process.

The final study surveyed students about their implicit associations (unconscious and automatic biases) about black people. They found that the students with strong automatic biases against black people, when lacking sleep, engaged in more prejudiced behavior toward them.

Ghumman, assistant professor of management at the Shidler College of Business, explained “In our research, we found that sleep functions as a self-regulatory resource that, when deleted, leaves people less able to control their thoughts, attitudes and behaviors in a non-prejudicial manner. By having a good night’s sleep and being well-rested, individuals are more likely to be able to act appropriately in situations.”

This research underscores the need for getting sufficient sleep when making decisions that affect other people.

This study is published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

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