So much for the benefits of being creative.
The seed of artistic and cultural endeavors leads people to cheat more and justify it better than less imaginative people, psychologists found.
A good predictor of whether someone is a cheater is their creativity, according to a study published online Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Of course, people laud creativity for pushing forward intellectual endeavors ranging from the arts to the sciences.
But psychology researchers Francesca Gino of Harvard University and Dan Ariely of Duke University decided to look into the darker side of inventiveness.
Greater creativity helps individuals solve difficult tasks across many domains, but creative sparks may lead individuals to take unethical routes when searching for solutions to problems and tasks, lead researcher Gino said in a statement.
The researchers paid undergraduates $5 to participate in in-person and online tests that gauged their creativity and gave the students the chance to be dishonest in separate tests.
The psychologists then paid students to undertake tasks that tested perception, problem-solving along with general knowledge. The researchers rigged the tests so that by cheating students could earn more money than if they were honest.
Researchers told multiple-choice test participants to transfer their answers to a photocopied sheet that accidentally had the correct answers faintly marked. The more creative students took the opportunity and used the answer sheet as their own guide.
The duo didn't find any connection between intelligence and dishonesty - smarter people weren't more or less inclined to cheat.
Dishonesty and innovation are two of the topics most widely written about in the popular press, the authors wrote in a statement. Yet, to date, the relationship between creativity and dishonest behavior has not been studied empirically. ... The results from the current article indicate that, in fact, people who are creative or work in environments that promote creative thinking may be the most at risk when they face ethical dilemmas.
The authors noted that tempting participants to cheat for cash rewards may skew the results.
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, the authors concluded.