Study Objectives: The present study explores the impact of long-term partial sleep deprivation on the activation of moral justice schemas, which are suggested to play a prominent role in moral reasoning and the formation of moral judgments and behavior.
Design: Participants judged 5 dilemmas in rested and partially sleep deprived condition, in a counterbalanced design.
Setting: In classroom and field exercises at the Norwegian Naval Academy and the Norwegian Army Academy.
Participants: Seventy-one Norwegian naval and army officer cadets.
Measurements and Results: The results showed that the officers’ ability to conduct mature and principally oriented moral reasoning was severely impaired during partial sleep deprivation compared to the rested state. At the same time, the officers became substantially more rules-oriented in the sleep deprived condition, while self-oriented moral reasoning did not change. Interaction effects showed that those officers who displayed high levels of mature moral reasoning (n = 24) in the rested condition, lost much of this capacity during sleep deprivation in favor of a strong increase in rules-oriented moral reasoning as well as self-orientation. Conversely, officers at low levels of mature moral reasoning in rested condition (n = 23) were unaffected by sleep deprivation.
Conclusions: The present data show that long-term partial sleep deprivation has an impact on the activation of moral justice schemas, and consequently on the ability to make moral justice judgments.
Keywords: Sleep deprivation, moral schemas, moral judgment, moral reasoning, military