The Link Between Self-Dehumanization and Immoral Behavior

Maryam Kouchaki, Kyle S.H. Dobson*, Adam Waytz, Nour S. Kteily

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


People perceive morality to be distinctively human, with immorality representing a lack of full humanness. In eight experiments, we examined the link between immorality and self-dehumanization, testing both (a) the causal role of immoral behavior on self-dehumanization and (b) the causal role of self-dehumanization on immoral behavior. Studies 1a to 1d showed that people feel less human after behaving immorally and that these effects were not driven by having a negative experience but were unique to experiences of immorality (Study 1d). Studies 2a to 2c showed that self-dehumanization can lead to immoral and antisocial behavior. Study 3 highlighted how self-dehumanization can sometimes produce downward spirals of immorality, demonstrating initial unethical behavior leading to self-dehumanization, which in turn promotes continued dishonesty. These results demonstrate a clear relationship between self-dehumanization and unethical behavior, and they extend previous theorizing on dehumanization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1246
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • morality
  • open data
  • preregistered
  • repeated dishonesty
  • self-dehumanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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