The Impacts of Face-to-Face and Cyber Incivility on Performance, Helping Behavior, Counterproductive Behaviors, and Physiological Activity

  • Jenna L. SciscoEmail author
  • Gary W. Giumetti
  • Jane F. Bodinger
  • Kathleen J. Randall
  • Ryanne N. Shemanskis
Original Research: Report


The present experiment compared the immediate impacts of cyber incivility and face-to-face incivility vs. neutral interactions on both behavioral [task performance, creativity, flexibility, helping behavior, and counterproductive behaviors (CBs)] and physiological outcomes [heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), and skin conductance (SCR)]. We randomly assigned 232 undergraduate students to one of four conditions: (1) face-to-face uncivil, (2) cyber uncivil, (3) face-to-face neutral, or (4) cyber neutral. In the uncivil conditions, two uncivil interactions were delivered with instructions to complete anagrams and list uses for a brick. Physiological responses were measured while participants completed the tasks. Additionally, participants were given the opportunity to help the experimenter by picking up pens that were “accidentally” dropped. Thefts of extra candy, pens, and gift cards served as measures of CBs. After uncivil interactions, participants engaged in significantly more CBs and experienced greater HR increases as compared to neutral interactions. Additionally, participants were most likely to steal pens in the face-to-face uncivil condition. However, HR increased more in cyber conditions than face-to-face conditions. Instances of incivility did not impact task performance, creativity, flexibility, or helping behavior. These findings suggest that although face-to-face incivility led to increased CBs, cyber incivility may have a stronger impact on physiological responses.


Incivility Cyber incivility Face-to-face incivility Counterproductive behaviors Heart rate Skin conductance 



The authors wish to thank Sydney Batchelder, Breanna Fortin, Meaghan Rodgers, Rachel Scrivano, Ashlee Tangarone, Taylor Page, Samantha Dyar, Elizabeth Bartilucci, Alexandra Wilson, Sarah Caruso, Priscilla Rigos, and Jacob Ward for their assistance with data collection, and Calli Oleksy and Katy Minet for their assistance with physiological data processing.

Funding Information

Funding for this study was awarded to the first author through a Connecticut State Universities – American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) grant and the second author through a Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences Grant-in-Aid.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenna L. Scisco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gary W. Giumetti
    • 2
  • Jane F. Bodinger
    • 1
  • Kathleen J. Randall
    • 1
  • Ryanne N. Shemanskis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological ScienceEastern Connecticut State UniversityWillimanticUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyQuinnipiac UniversityHamdenUSA

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