Creativity could make you dishonest: Study

By: | Published: September 28, 2015 6:45 PM

Believing you are a creative person can create feelings of entitlement that can lead you to be dishonest, a new study suggests.

Believing you are a creative person can create feelings of entitlement that can lead you to be dishonest, a new study suggests.

However, this was applicable mostly to those participants in the study who believed that being creative is rare and valuable, researchers said.

The findings are based on several laboratory experiments, in addition to a study of employees and supervisor pairs.

While creativity is generally valued, such as other positive attributes, including practicality or intelligence, it may be over-valued compared to those other positive attributes because creativity is by definition rare.

That sense of rarity then creates a sense of entitlement. People see their creative efforts as special and valuable and feel that they deserve extra rewards for their creative efforts.

That entitlement can cause them to steal in order to get the rewards that they think they deserve, researchers said.

“The key to the relationship between creativity and dishonesty is the sense of rarity,” said Lynne Vincent, an assistant professor of management at Syracuse University’s Martin J Whitman School of Management.

“When individuals identified themselves as creative and believed that creativity was rare, entitlement emerged. However, if individuals believed that creativity was common, that sense of entitlement and the dishonest acts were reduced,” said Vincent, who conducted the study with Maryam Kouchaki, assistant professor of management and organisations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

When people in the laboratory experiments believed that their creativity was rare compared to common, they were more likely to lie for money.

However, when people believed that being practical was rare compared to common, the increased sense of psychological entitlement and dishonesty did not occur.

In organisations in which creativity was viewed as rare in workgroups, employees who identified themselves as creative were rated as engaging in more unethical behaviours by their supervisors.

In brief, even though creativity is commonly considered as rare, the perceived prevalence of creativity and thus the accompanying entitlement depends on individuals’ context.

The study was published in the journal Academy of Management Journal.

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