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Creative people are more dishonest, new study shows

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‘Creative.’ It’s the word that we flood our CVs with, throw about at job interviews, and generally pride ourselves on being.

But what if we told you that hand in hand with being highly creative comes another personality trait and it's much darker - and not so CV-worthy.

Because new research published by the Academy of Management journal found that creativity was linked to dishonesty, as people who identify with being creative are more likely to behave dishonestly and unethically.

The paper written by Lynne C. Vincent and Maryam Kouchaki states in the abstract the following finding: “Four experiments showed that individuals with a creative identity reported higher psychological entitlement and engaged in more unethical behaviors. Additionally, when participants believed that their creativity was rare compared to common, they were more likely to lie for money.”

work creative

One of the studies involved 131 participants undertaking a two part experiment, to see how identifying with their creativity side affected their honesty.

Firstly, the subjects were set writing exercises, which identified whether they were creative - and if so, whether in an ‘entitled’ or ‘less entitled condition.’

The second part consisted of a self-marked maths test, where subjects paid themselves for every correct answer.

The study found that those who identified as entitled creatives lied about the problems they solved more – and stole six times more money than those who identified as less entitled creatives.

This, along with the other three experiments, led the researchers to conclude that rather than just being creative leading to dishonesty, it’s the sense of entitlement felt (and granted) to those creatives that led them to feel more inclined to act in such a manner.

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The thinking behind it is that because creativity is societally seen as a rare quality that deserves praise and often special treatment, those unique innovators are left with a sense of entitlement, which is often reinforced by the management or influencers around them – meaning sometimes they’re let off when they’re late to the office or miss a deadline.

We have to let the creativity 'do its thing'.

Another 2012 study conducted by Francesca Gino at the Harvard Business School also concluded that more creative people are better at rationalising dishonesty, and therefore are more likely to act unethically.

So from the two sets of reasearch, it seems that the combined factors of being able to rationalise  dishonesty combined with others in society giving you a free ride on your less-than-ethical actions, leads to a more dishonest trait in you creatives to prevail.

Maybe time to rethink that CV...

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