The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest

47 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2011

See all articles by Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Date Written: January 11, 2011


Creativity is a common aspiration for individuals, organizations, and societies. Here, however, we test whether creativity increases dishonesty. We propose that a creative personality and creativity primes promote individuals’ motivation to think outside the box and that this increased motivation leads to unethical behavior. In four studies, we show that participants with creative personalities who scored high on a test measuring divergent thinking tended to cheat more (Study 1); that dispositional creativity is a better predictor of unethical behavior than intelligence (Study 2); and that participants who were primed to think creatively were more likely to behave dishonestly because of their creativity motivation (Study 3) and greater ability to justify their dishonest behavior (Study 4). Finally, a field study constructively replicates these effects and demonstrates that individuals who work in more creative positions are also more morally flexible (Study 5). The results provide evidence for an association between creativity and dishonesty, thus highlighting a dark side of creativity.

Keywords: creativity, creative thinking, dishonesty, intelligence, unethical behavior

Suggested Citation

Gino, Francesca and Ariely, Dan, The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest (January 11, 2011). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 11-064, Available at SSRN: or

Francesca Gino (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
(919) 381-4366 (Phone)

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