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The Fascinating Link Between Creativity and Dishonesty

A new study finds that the idea of breaking rules is at the root of the connection.

An individual's propensity to lie appears to be closely linked to his or her creative abilities. That's the conclusion of recent study by two researchers from prominent business schools.

What explains the connection?  

"The common saying that 'rules are meant to be broken' is at the root of both creative performance and dishonest behavior," lead researcher Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, said in a press release. "Both creativity and dishonesty, in fact, involve rule breaking."

Gino and her coauthor Scott Wiltermuth, an assistant professor at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, came up with a two-part experiment to study the link between deceptiveness and inventiveness.

First, they looked at participants' readiness to lie. Gino and Wiltermuth told individuals that they would be compensated for each math problem they were able to solve. At the end of the test, they were asked to self-report that number. Little did they know that the researchers tracked their actual performance, too.

Almost 60 percent of the participants cheated by saying they were able to solve more problems than they did.

For the next task, the participants were asked to spontaneously come up with "remote associates." A remote associate is a word that is related to a set of words, for example, "sore, shoulder, sweat" (answer: cold). The exercise is a common way to measure creativity.

Gino's and Wiltermuth's data showed that those who lied about their results were better at the remote associate test than their counterparts. As it turns out, breaking the rules can serve as a great primer for out-of-the-box thinking, the two concluded.

 

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Last updated: Mar 3, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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