Creative Deviance: A Study of the Relationship between Creative Behavior and the Social Construct of Deviance

Article excerpt

Confirming a relationship between the social construct of deviance and creativity was the focus of this study. Two hundred and sixty-eight university students were administered assessments designed to elicit tendencies toward both creativity and deviant behavior. Their responses were factor analyzed and results indicated a seven-factor structure in which a small yet significant relationship between creativity and deviance was established.


As a construct, creativity is expanding beyond the linear paradigms that dominated the 20th century (e.g., Wallas, 1927; Osborne, 1953; Parnes, 1972; Gordon, 1961). Emerging models reflect the complex interactions of cognitive, personality, behavioral, and social contributions to creativity. However, creativity research involving environmental and social correlates has been under represented when compared to published studies emphasizing personality and cognitive attributes of creativity (Amabile, 1983).

Deviance, as defined by sociologists, is the braking of explicit and implicit social rules by individuals within society. Typically, the results of deviance is the labeling of an offender as a deviant, usually pejoratively, and has long been associated with the antisocial and/or criminal behavior (Mead, 1964), and emotional/behavioral problems (Gove, 1970; Scheff, 1996; Szasz, 1961). This label is applied in social situations to the rule breaker after being convicted either formally, or informally, of breaking a norm. Once the label is applied, society views and treats the rule breaker differently, typically negatively, than they did prior to the label. In essence, the label becomes and additional hindrance to the punishment that will inevitably be applied to social deviants. As a preliminary investigation, this study was conducted to see if the sociological concept is related to creativity.



Participants included 268 college volunteers (140 female, 128 male) who were recruited from undergraduate psychology classes at a Southern University. The mean age of the sample was 19.9 (SD = 5.5) and the median was 20 (range = 17-45). The religious affiliation was predominately Christian (88%); the rest of the participants identified them selves as Other (8%), Agnostic (2%), or Jewish (1%).


In order to capture the construct of creativity, the authors randomly selected 20 items from the Creativity Assessment Packet: Exercise in Divergent Feeling (Williams, 1993). This scale was designed to provide indication of creativity and information about how people view their own creativity. Typical items include, "I like doing many new things". For the deviance construct, 18 items were developed to reflect the sociological concept of deviance, e.g., "Breaking social taboos doesn't bother me". These items were counterbalanced and combined to create the Creative Deviance Scale. This scale contained 38 items that were rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from Is Not like me (1) to Is A Lot like me (5).


Given the exploratory nature of this research, a principal components factor analysis was conducted in order to identify the number of factors necessary to explain the data. Based on an analysis of eigenvalues, scree plots, and the parallel analysis criterion, a seven-factor structure emerged. The structure was comprised of the relationship between salient items (.40) and the following factors: innovation, exploration, imaginative empathy, need for consistency, conventional/unconventional, rebelliousness, and impression management. These seven factors accounted for 52.6% of the total variance. A factor analysis was then conducted on the seven factors. Since there was no logical reason to assume that the factors were uncorrelated, a maximum likelihood extraction with oblimin rotation was used.

Upon reviewing the preliminary structure, the analysis brought implications of higher order relationships among the factors. …


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