Duke Study Finds Creative People Cheat More

Aug 4, 2011

Creative people are more likely to cheat and lie. That's according to a new study out of Duke University. Dan Ariely is a Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke and co-author of the study. He says the research shows the ability to think creatively makes someone more likely to use that ability for personal gain.

Dan Ariely: "Now the fact that creative people cheat more than others has two things, right? The first thing is that it tells us about some dark side of creativity. But more importantly, because we all have some creative ability, it tells us something about all of our ability to basically cheat a little bit, very quickly tell ourselves a story about it, justify it, and feel good about it."
Ariely says that doesn't mean creativity should be stifled. Rather --- he says we should think more the environments in which people can justify unethical behavior and what we can do to change them.

Ariely: "So you know, what do we do with expense reports? What do we do with lobbying efforts? What do we do with the pharmaceutical industry who comes to doctors and tries to get them to prescribe particular medications for their patients or give them particular devices? Should we allow those things to happen?"
Ariely says more creative people are able to use their creativity to justify unethical behavior and are more likely to do so.

Ariely: "Probably all of us have some capacity for cheating, and this capacity depends on this ability to act badly but tell ourselves a story about why this is ok."
The research focused on a number of groups, from undergraduates to large advertising firms. Ariely says they even found that giving groups exercises to get them thinking more creatively made them more likely to cheat and lie. He says this should lead people to think more about how we justify our transgressions.