Several weeks ago, we spent the class talking about Autism so I blogged about an article I found related to our in-class discussion. A topic that I missed the opportunity to write about was the reading for that week-- Theories of Personality (ch. 2). I was interested in examining specific personality traits further. I began by researching studies about creativity and it’s influence on other traits. I came across research done by Francesca Gino of Harvard and Dan Ariely of Duke University entitled The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest (link). They proposed that “a creative personality and a creative mindset promote individuals’ ability to justify their behavior, which, in turn, leads to unethical behavior”. Through a series of studies, they tested their hypothesis.
A pilot study was used to collect basic data about the moral flexibility of those who work in fields that require high levels of creativity. In addition to the pilot study, they conducted five lab studies. The first experiment measured creativity as an individual difference and it’s association with dishonesty. This experiment utilized an online survey followed by perceptual problem-solving tasks in the lab. The researchers used established scales and measures to rank the creativity and performance such as Gough’s Creative Personality Scale and Hocavar’s Creative Behavior Inventory. The first experiment did not find a link between creativity and intelligence or between intelligence and dishonesty.
The second study examined whether a creative mindset would temporarily promote dishonesty. The data was gathered through a series of seemingly unrelated tasks. The participants would begin with a creative “prime” that employed a scramble sentence test to the construct subject’s ability to form short, grammatically correct sentences. A two minute filler used to distract the subjects preceded the final creativity task and the matrix task--which assessed dishonesty. The creative task involved examining a photo with an image of a candle, a box of tacks and a match. The participants were to figure out how to attach the candle to the wall with only the objects in the image. The task required the ability to consider an object’s atypical functionality. The participants then “completed the same problem-solving task with the 20 matrices used in Experiment 1”. This allowed the researchers to assess the difference between the subjects’ self- reported and actual performance. The data from this experiment demonstrated that subjects with a creative mindset also tended to be less honest.
The third and fourth studies tested Gino and Ariely’s idea that creativity promotes dishonesty because creative people are able to justify their unethical behaviors. The researchers used a series of tasks that tested the subjects’ ability to identify associations between words atypically associated with each other. They used the Remote Association Task to decipher if the participants were prime or creative thinkers. They then had the participants engage in a dice rolling task that gave the subjects an opportunity to lie (or justify their multiple rolls) in order to earn more money. Again, the data collected from this experiment supported the hypothesis that creativity promotes dishonesty.
The fifth and final experiment tested whether or not dispositional creativity would moderate the impact of primed creativity on dishonesty. The procedure used was the same as in experiment two but an online personality survey was used in addition. They found that dispositional creativity does moderate the relationship between a creative mindset and dishonest behavior.
I found this study extremely interesting because collectively, Pratt is a highly creative environment. Does this suggest that our community as a whole is more likely to be constructed of dishonest people? Creativity is a trait that is essential to my personality. I find that it helps me seek solutions to many problems I encounter on a daily basis. This research suggests that people with creative personalities are more likely to lie in order to justify unethical actions. I am curious as to what other factors and personality traits influence unethical behaviors. I am also curious about how the researchers define the term “unethical behaviors”--who defines what is and is not ethical? Money was used as a driving force in this study. I wonder what the outcome would have been if the participants did not receive payment based on their answers. Dishonesty and innovation are traits not often linked so closely. This study provides insight to the connection between creativity and dishonesty through a series of moderated tests in a way that demonstrates the consequences of creativity. I would be interested to read more studies that examine the consequences and benefits of creative people.