Abstract (Gino & Ariely @ Harvard)
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.
Excerpted Conclusion (Gino @ Ariely @ Harvard)
In the current studies, we found a robust relationship between creativity and dishonesty. This research provides a critical first step toward understanding how creative thinking is associated with unethical behavior, two often-discussed ingredients of our complex world. Across five studies, we demonstrated that both a creative personality and creativity primes promote individuals’ motivation to think creatively, such that higher scores on dispositional creativity or exposure to creativity primes lead to an increased motivation to think outside the box. In turn, this increased motivation promotes dishonesty. Our results suggest that there is a link between creativity and rationalization. As Mazar et al. (2008) proposed, the ability of most people to behave dishonestly might be bounded by their ability to cheat and at the same time feel that they are behaving as moral individuals. To the extent that creativity allows people to more easily behave dishonestly and rationalize this behavior, creativity might be a more general driver of this type of dishonesty and play a useful role in understanding unethical behavior.