Creative thinkers 'more likely to cheat' as they can dream up more imaginative defences
Creative thinkers are more likely to cheat as they can come up with elaborate explanations to justify their actions, researchers claim.
The psychologists tested a range of students and found that those with vivid imaginations cheated in order to get a bigger financial prize.
The students then used their creative thinking skills to come up with different reasons for their actions and ultimately assuage their guilt.
'Greater creativity helps individuals solve difficult tasks across many domains,' study researcher Francesca Gino of Harvard University said in a statement, according to LiveScience. 'But creative sparks may lead individuals to take unethical routes when searching for solutions to problems and tasks.'
Scientists asked 97 students from southeastern U.S. universities to complete a series of recognised psychological tests.
Participants looked at drawings with dots on two sides of a diagonal line and were then asked figure out which side had more dots. In half of the 200 tests, there was a virtually identical number of dots on either side.
The students were then given an incentive of 5 cents for choosing the right side of the line but only 0.5 cents for picking the left side of diagram.
The more creative people chose the more lucrative right side even though there was no reason for them to believe it had more dots.
The researchers claim that this is proof that creative individuals construct imaginative justifications in their mind while cheating, and in particular, when cheating for money.
A second experiment saw students answer general-knowledge questions by circling their answers on test paper.
They were then told to transfer their answers to another piece of paper. However, the researcher then told them that this same test sheet had been accidentally marked with the correct answers.
Although the students were led to believe there was no way they could get caught cheating, a system was in place to catch those who had.
Once again it was the creative types who had taken shortcuts by copying the correct answers. During this experiment students also knew they would be paid more for correct answers, so had more incentive to cheat.
'Being able to generate several original justifications for one's own unethical actions thanks to creativity may lead people to feel licensed to cheat,' the authors wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
'The results from the current paper 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.'
The study did not identify a link between intelligence and dishonesty. Less intelligent people who lacked creativity were also no more likely to cheat.