Feeling Activated and Acting Unethically: The Influence of Activated Mood on Unethical Behavior to Benefit a Teammate

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Personnel Psychology

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Research on the effects of mood in organizations tends to focus on the valence dimension of mood (positive vs. negative), overlooking the activation dimension (activated vs. deactivated). We suggest that activation level prompts unethical behavior. Based on the affective infusion model (AIM; Forgas, 1995), we predict that positive activated and negative activated moods facilitate unethical behavior to benefit a teammate, via the mediating mechanism of a creative mindset. We test our full model using an experience sampling method over 2 weeks, in which mood and creative mindset were assessed in the morning and unethical behavior conducted that day was assessed in the evening. We found that activated moods (both positive and negative) were positively related to unethical behavior to benefit a teammate. Further, creative mindset mediated the relationship between positive activated mood and unethical behavior to benefit a teammate. Consistent with AIM's claim that mood should influence decisions more when they are not personally relevant, we found that moral disengagement propensity moderated this indirect effect. In addition, we conducted two experiments to examine further the mood‐creative mindset and creative mindset‐unethical behavior to benefit a teammate relationship. Our findings affirm that activated versus deactivated moods facilitate a creative mindset, and that a creative mindset encourages unethical behavior to benefit a teammate. Our findings suggest that activation level of mood plays a critical role in unethical behavior.


Activated moods; Unethical behavior to benefit a teammate; Unethical behavior to benefit others; Valence


Industrial and Organizational Psychology



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