Decisions for others are more creative than decisions for the self

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2011 Apr;37(4):492-501. doi: 10.1177/0146167211398362. Epub 2011 Feb 11.


Four studies investigate whether decisions for others produce more creative solutions than do decisions for the self and if construal level explains this relation. In Study 1, participants carried out a structured imagination task by drawing an alien for a story that they would write, or alternatively for a story that someone else would write. As expected, drawing an alien for someone else produced a more creative alien. In Studies 2a and 2b, construal level (i.e., psychological distance) was independently manipulated. Participants generated more creative ideas on behalf of distant others than on behalf of either close others or themselves. Finally, in Study 3, a classic insight problem was investigated. Participants deciding for others were more likely to solve the problem; furthermore, this result was mediated by psychological distance. These findings demonstrate that people are more creative for others than for themselves and shed light on differences in self-other decision making.

MeSH terms

  • Creativity*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Students
  • Young Adult