Study: Cheating Fuels Creativity

More evidence that dishonesty and creativity are bosom buds.

Being creative requires thinking outside the box. That's a hard thing to do when you play entirely by the rules, be they rules of society, the legal system, or even a corporate ethics handbook. For years, Harvard Business School's Francesca Gino has been studying ethical decision-making, often focusing on the connection between being creative and being dishonest. Her latest research finds yet more proof that the two often go hand in hand.

A little bit of cheating can lead to more creative thinking, according to her recent study in Psychological Science. In five different experiments, Gino and the University of Southern California's Scott Wiltermuth gave study participants (more than 700 in total) opportunities to fudge the numbers regarding their performance on different tasks such as playing a computer game featuring math and logic problems. The researchers also gave participants tests to measure their levels of creative thinking. They found that those subjects who cheated by inflating their performance scores on the first tasks showed higher levels of creative thinking in subsequent tests.

“Our research raises the possibility that one of the reasons why dishonesty seems so widespread in today's society is that by acting dishonestly we become more creative,” Gino said in a press statement. She further speculates that “this creativity may allow us to come up with original justifications for our immoral behavior and make us likely to keep crossing ethical boundaries."

Not that the world needs more incentives for cheating, but the researchers have raised the possibility of a compelling productivity tip: When stuck in a creative rut, take a break, do the crossword, play a boardgame. And definitely cheat.

[Images: Ferris Bueller's Day Off via FanPop]

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  • Jaddy Baddy

    What is cheating?

    I had a loyal Tory Englishman professor, a nationally recognized security advisor to Jimmy Carter, no less, try to bait me and every Texan in his class with comments about black women riding buses with cockroaches in their hair. Was he trying to label Us all racist and cheat us out of a college degree?

    I had a college prof who commanded everyone in her programming class to "buddy up", partner with another student in that class to code a semester thesis program. In a class of thirty one students, that Required one student to perform twice as much work as any other, to achieve the same grade. Was I Cheated?

    I had another professor require us to write a synopsis of a stage musical that was adapted into a major Hollywood movie. It was an elective class for me, filled with drama students. Every book of such plays was checked out of the school library; I mean the minute the project was announced after class ended, every Shakespeare, Loerners and Loew, Rogers and Hammerstein, every book on stage musicals was Gone, forcing me to write my synopsis based on the movie, itself. Being pre-internet, I had no other sources from which to draw my material.As the movie was not entirely faithful to the stage play, and only encompassed the climactic events of the play, and not the entire breadth of the play, my grade was discounted for writing about the screen play, and Not about the play, itself. Was I Cheated?

    I attended a college in a snooty upper class neighborhood, where everybody played soccer and tennis, and everybody's Daddy had a golf cart. I grew up on RoC Coca Cola and American football, I wouldn't have known which end of a tennis racket to hold. I had a math final where thirty percent of the grade was based on your knowledge of tennis scoring and knowing what the hell love thirty meant, with no explanation of tennis scoring, before Wimbledon and tennis became popular. The prof excused himself from the class immediately after handing out the exams, leaving no proctor to consult. If I had asked a fellow student in the middle of an exam, I'd have been black balled for cheating. If I hadn't aced the entire first two thirds of the exam, I wouldn't have graduated. Was I Cheated?

    I had several math classes back in the day when a graphics calculator cost as much as a college semester's tuition, I was in my thirties and my twenty something preppy math doctor college prof and half the class of TI foreign exchange technicians spent the entire final exam flashing their early release TI-81s at me, while I methodically, glacially plotted graph points on pen and paper. Was That class, age, financial and racial prejudice, Cheating?

    I know a college student who was Required by their professor to research a paper in concert with another student. One of those students insisted they turn in a joint paper with material written by the two of them, as anyone might have thought was indicated by teaming the two together. The second student was accused of plagiarism and placed on probation, and subsequently had every grade devalued in every class they took. This student was frozen out of their dorm room and was eventually hounded out of school by their classmates. Was That Cheating?

    There is a hell of a lot that goes on in so called institutions of higher learning that ain't kosher, but gets winked at in the name of class, racial, sexual, age, origin and financial prejudice: including who ultimately gets flamed and blamed for Cheating.