Is there a link between creativity and dishonesty? According to a new study, there is, with creative people more likely to cheat than their less creative colleagues because their talent increases their ability to rationalise their actions.
Francesca Gino from Harvard University and Dan Ariely, from Duke University, set out to explore whether more creative people would cheat under circumstances where they could justify their bad behaviour.
Their findings, published by the American Psychological Association, suggest that creative sparks may lead individuals to take unethical routes when searching for solutions to problems and tasks.
Gino and Ariely carried out five experiments to test their thesis and found that the more creative participants in the study were significantly more likely to cheat. It also emerged that there was no link between intelligence and dishonesty – i.e. more intelligent but less creative people were not more inclined toward dishonesty.
"Dishonesty and innovation are two of the topics most widely written about in the popular press," the authors wrote. "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."
However the authors concede some important limitations in their work, most notably that they created situations in which participants were tempted by money to cheat. They suggested that future research should investigate whether creativity would lead people to satisfy selfish, short-term goals rather than their higher aspirations when faced with self-control dilemmas, such as eating a slice of cake when trying to lose weight.