Consider yourself creative? Then you’re probably a LIAR: People who ‘think outside the box’ tend to be devious


Being creative is seen as a positive trait, especially in the school, but beware – creative types are more likely to be liars and cheats, according to research.

During tests, researchers at Harvard Business School discovered almost 60 per cent of people who lied about scores in one experiment scored highly for creativity in a second.

The experts believe this is because creativity encourages people to break the rules and ‘think outside the box’, and rule breaking is a trait associated with cheating.

To test the participants, the researchers designed a series of experiments that allowed, and encouraged, people to cheat.

In the first test, people were given a basic maths puzzles in which they had to find pairs of numbers which added up to a total of ten, from a long list of numbers.

They were told they would be rewarded on the number of correct answers, and had to self-report their scores.

This setup allowed them to ‘cheat’ by declaring whatever score they wanted, although in reality researchers were able to track their actual scores.

In a subsequent task participants were given three words and were asked to come up with a fourth that was linked to the words in the set. For example, the word cold links the words sore, shoulder and sweat.

Word association tests are traditionally used as a means of identifying how creative people are.

Researchers found that almost 59 per cent of participants cheated by inflating their scores on the maths test.

The cheaters also tended to be better at working out the more obscure or tricky links between words, making them more creative than the honest people

Professor Francesca Gino from the Harvard Business School said: ‘The common saying that ‘rules are meant to be broken’ is at the root of both creative performance and dishonest behaviour.

‘Both creativity and dishonesty, in fact, involve rule breaking.’

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

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