Excluded and behaving unethically: Social exclusion, physiological responses, and unethical behavior

Maryam Kouchaki*, Justin Wareham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Across 2 studies, we investigated the ethical consequences of physiological responses to social exclusion. In Study 1, participants who were socially excluded were more likely to engage in unethical behavior to make money and the level of physiological arousal experienced during exclusion-measured using galvanic skin response-mediated the effects of exclusion on unethical behavior. Likewise, in Study 2, results from a sample of supervisor-subordinate dyads revealed a positive relationship between experience of workplace ostracism and unethical behaviors as rated by the immediate supervisors. This relationship was mediated by employees' reports of experienced physiological arousal. Together, the results of these studies demonstrate that physiological arousal accompanies social exclusion and provides an explanatory mechanism for the increased unethical behavior in both samples. Theoretical implications of these findings for research on ethical behavior and social exclusion in the workplace are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-556
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015


  • Emotional responses
  • Ostracism
  • Physiological arousal
  • Social exclusion
  • Unethical behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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