SA: How Creativity Connects with Immorality

Scientific American, Travis Riddle, “How Creativity Connects with Immorality”

It’s a cliche in movies and comic books: the idea that the evil genius perpetrating insidious violence or instilling fear is simply misunderstood. Well, in this article, Travis Riddle discusses the dark side of creativity, as explored by a recent Harvard research project, and sheds some light on the link between active imaginations and bad behavior. Researchers found that test subjects ‘primed’ for creativity were much more likely to commit immoral behavior and then explain it away with elaborate justifications.

Basically, the active, creative mind is predisposed to bending or breaking accepted rules, which results in certain individuals unconsciously enabling themselves to go beyond “normal” social and cultural boundaries. Because creativity is so highly prized, cultivated, and sought after, Riddle comes to the conclusion that the study’s findings are unfortunately reflected in some of the worst behaviors among top business men and many culture leaders.

So, maybe it really wasn’t Jack’s fault that he was susceptible to the evil of the Overlook Hotel; his creative mind was just too good at deceiving itself into justifying his bad behavior! (sarcasm)

Travis Riddle: “In five studies, the authors show that creative individuals are more likely to be dishonest, and that individuals induced to think creatively were more likely to be dishonest. Importantly, they showed that this effect is not explained by any tendency for creative people to be more intelligent, but rather that creativity leads people to more easily come up with justifications for their unscrupulous actions.”

Travis Riddle: “In the case of the heads of financial firms and their exploitation of mortgage-backed securities, the tendency to hire creative individuals and promote creativity within organizations may be good for business, even as it is remarkably bad for the rest of us.”


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