Evil genius? How dishonesty can lead to greater creativity

Psychol Sci. 2014 Apr;25(4):973-81. doi: 10.1177/0956797614520714. Epub 2014 Feb 18.


We propose that dishonest and creative behavior have something in common: They both involve breaking rules. Because of this shared feature, creativity may lead to dishonesty (as shown in prior work), and dishonesty may lead to creativity (the hypothesis we tested in this research). In five experiments, participants had the opportunity to behave dishonestly by overreporting their performance on various tasks. They then completed one or more tasks designed to measure creativity. Those who cheated were subsequently more creative than noncheaters, even when we accounted for individual differences in their creative ability (Experiment 1). Using random assignment, we confirmed that acting dishonestly leads to greater creativity in subsequent tasks (Experiments 2 and 3). The link between dishonesty and creativity is explained by a heightened feeling of being unconstrained by rules, as indicated by both mediation (Experiment 4) and moderation (Experiment 5).

Keywords: creativity; decision making; dishonesty; ethics; moral flexibility; morality; rule breaking.

Publication types

  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Creativity*
  • Deception*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morals*
  • Young Adult