Social network ties beyond nonredundancy: an experimental investigation of the effect of knowledge content and tie strength on creativity

J Appl Psychol. 2014 Sep;99(5):831-46. doi: 10.1037/a0036385. Epub 2014 Mar 31.


Social network research emphasizes the access to nonredundant knowledge content that network ties provide. I suggest that some content is more beneficial than others and that tie strength may affect creativity for reasons other than the associated structure. That is, tie strength may affect how individuals process nonredundant knowledge. I investigate 2 types of knowledge content--information (i.e., facts or data) and frames (i.e., interpretations or impressions)--and explore whether tie strength influences their effect on creativity. Drawing on creativity theory, I employ an experimental design to provide greater theoretical clarity and to isolate causality. According to the results from 2 studies, distinct frames received from contacts facilitate creativity, but the effect of distinct information is more complex. When individuals receive distinct information from strong ties, it constrains creativity compared to distinct frames. Content from weak ties appears to facilitate creativity across all scenarios. The results of mediated moderation analysis indicate the effect of framing versus information for strong ties is driven by decision-making time, as an indicator of cognitive expansion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Knowledge*
  • Male
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult