Do you think highly creative people are less likely to be honest than less creative people?
Francesca Gino (Harvard Business School, Harvard University) and Dan Ariely (Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) wrote a Working Paper titled: “The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can be More Dishonest.” Click here to see the original paper.
In it, they show that the honesty of highly creative students is lower than less creative students. They summarize their findings in their abstract as follows:
“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.”
Do you consider yourself a highly creative person (everyone is creative to some extent)? If you answered yes, do you also consider yourself more dishonest than people you consider to be less creative that you? Difficult to swallow?
Has ‘denial’ moved in to protect your creative mind? Are you using your creative mind to justify what you do, just as these authors say you have a tendency to do.
What can a highly creative person do about this? Stay alert to this possibility and take extra care to be honest.
I intend to continue going right on being as creative as I can be and stay as honest and ethical as I can.
And so can you, I guess. Just don’t give in to the dark side…..
©2016 by Edward Glassman
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International.