Correlation between Creativity and Dishonesty? Experiments Explore the Idea: Study Asks: Creativity and Dishonesty Linked?

By Posadzki, Alexandra | The Canadian Press, January 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Correlation between Creativity and Dishonesty? Experiments Explore the Idea: Study Asks: Creativity and Dishonesty Linked?


Posadzki, Alexandra, The Canadian Press


TORONTO - Creativity has long been heralded as the force that drives society forward, responsible for life-saving medical breakthroughs and world-altering inventions like the lightbulb or the wheel. But a new study by a Harvard psychologist suggests this sought-after trait can come with a hefty price tag.

In "The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest," co-author Francesca Gino says that creative thinkers are more likely to lie when faced with ethical dilemmas.

"Creativity increases what we call moral flexibility, which is the ability for people to come up with reasons why cheating is morally OK," said Gino.

"Organizations try to do their best to foster creativity in their employees and society advances because of innovation, so the idea is to put a little bit more focus on ethics and making sure that when creativity is fostered or encouraged we are also careful in trying to make sure that people are being ethical."

Gino, alongside Duke University's Dan Ariely, evaluated subjects' creativity using a continuous measure. The subjects were then asked to take a test in which they would be awarded more money if they answered certain questions dishonestly.

Using a total of five experiments, Gino and Ariely found that the more creative the test-taker, the more likely he or she was to cheat. This is because creative thinkers are better able to justify their dishonesty, the study suggests.

This held true not only when creativity was studied as a personality trait but also when responses were triggered by priming subjects to think creatively before taking the test.

"What we wanted to do with this paper is raise a red flag," said Gino. "I think we should be more aware of the risks and think about ways in which we can encourage creativity but also keep ethics in check."

Richard Spacek, co-ordinator of retention programs at the University of New Brunswick, says he finds the result of the study alarming.

"It is troubling that the greatest commodity of the new era also has a very dark side," said Spacek. …

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