Study Says Creative People Cheat More

Are you creative? Have you cheated? Well then, it might be because you’re creative. We’re not necessarily talking about cheating on a partner or anything — but say cheating on a test, or at a task? A new study from Harvard University published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that creative thinkers are more likely to find “original ways to bypass moral rules.”

“Ethical dilemmas often require people to weigh two opposing forces: the desire to maximize self-interest and the desire to maintain a positive view of oneself,” explain lead study professors Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely. “Recent research has suggested that individuals tend to resolve this tension through self-serving rationalizations: They behave dishonestly enough to profit from their unethical behavior but honestly enough to maintain a positive self-concept as honest human beings.”

And that’s where the creative thinking comes in. More creative thinkers are able to “creatively” rationalize their cheating behavior. In the Harvard study, participants’ creativity was first tested and evaluated. The same group was then administered a second test in which they were told they would be paid  $.10 cents for every correct answer, up to $5. Participants took the test, and then were asked to transfer their answers to a standardized bubble test sheet. The only catch? They were told that the correct answers had been “accidentally” lightly shaded in on the scans. Both copies of the tests were then collected and compared. And overall, those who rated high as creative thinkers, also were more likely to cheat and change their answers.

And that connection between creativity and cheating has researchers pondering whether “people who are creative or work in environments that promote creative thinking may be the most at risk when they face ethical dilemmas.”

Annnnd, in case you were wondering, I must be pretty creative, because I’ve definitely cheated — though I got caught. And stupidly, I cheated on something really not worth cheating on. In my 8th grade English class we were given an open notebook quiz to test whether we had properly organized and saved our semester’s worth of work. I hadn’t, so I thought I could just look off the kid next to me. But my teacher Mrs. Cummings spotted me and took me down to the guidance counselor’s office and gave me a failing grade. I was almost kicked out of National Honor Society for it.

In fact, as a creative thinker, it’s often easy to see ways to “cheat” the system — if you want to. But just because you see the opportunity doesn’t mean that you’ll take the opportunity — or that you won’t regret it when you do. [Time]

Tell us: Have you ever cheated?