Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Dark Side of Creativity

Creativity is a common aspiration for individuals, organizations, and societies. Here, however, we test whether creativity increases dishonesty. We propose that a creative personality and creativity primes promote individuals' motivation to think outside the box and that this increased motivation leads to unethical behavior. In four studies, we show that participants with creative personalities who scored high on a test measuring divergent thinking tended to cheat more (Study 1); that dispositional creativity is a better predictor of unethical behavior than intelligence (Study 2); and that participants who were primed to think creatively were more likely to behave dishonestly because of their creativity motivation (Study 3) and greater ability to justify their dishonest behavior (Study 4). Finally, a field study constructively replicates these effects and demonstrates that individuals who work in more creative positions are also more morally flexible (Study 5). The results provide evidence for an association between creativity and dishonesty, thus highlighting a dark side of creativity.

From what I have seen, most parent of young children have experienced this. The smarter and more creative your children get, the more likely they are to be dishonest and manipulative.

A word of caution: this does not necessarily mean that creative people are inherently worse people. In a world where everyone had exactly the same morality, and the same desires to do bad things, then creative people would do more immoral things, simply because they had the ability to get away with it. They get the same 'benefit' from immorality as everyone else, but the expected costs are lower because of their cleverness. It is basic economics that when the costs of something go down, people do more of it.

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