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Thread: Original Thinkers More Likely to Cheat, Study Finds

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    Original Thinkers More Likely to Cheat, Study Finds

    ScienceDaily (Nov. 28, 2011) — Creative people are more likely to cheat than less creative people, possibly because this talent increases their ability to rationalize their actions, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

    "Greater creativity helps individuals solve difficult tasks across many domains, but creative sparks may lead individuals to take unethical routes when searching for solutions to problems and tasks," said lead researcher Francesca Gino, PhD, of Harvard University.

    Gino and her co-author, Dan Ariely, PhD, of Duke University, conducted a series of five experiments to test their thesis that more creative people would cheat under circumstances where they could justify their bad behavior. Their research was published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®.

    The researchers used a series of recognized psychological tests and measures to gauge research subjects' creativity. They also tested participants' intelligence. In each of the five experiments, participants received a small sum for showing up. Then, they were presented with tasks or tests where they could be paid more if they cheated. For example, in one experiment, participants took a general knowledge quiz in which they circled their answers on the test paper. Afterward, the experimenter told them to transfer their answers to "bubble sheets" -- but the experimenter told the group she had photocopied the wrong sheet and that the correct answers were lightly marked. The experimenters also told participants they would be paid more for more correct answers and led them to believe that they could cheat without detection when transferring their answers. However, all the papers had unique identifiers.

    The results showed the more creative participants were significantly more likely to cheat, and that there was no link between intelligence and dishonesty -- i.e., more intelligent but less creative people were not more inclined toward dishonesty.

    In another experiment, test subjects were shown drawings with dots on two sides of a diagonal line and asked to indicate whether there were more dots on the left side or right side. In half of 200 trials, it was virtually impossible to tell whether there were more dots on one side or another. However, participants were told they'd be paid 10 times as much (5 cents vs. 0.5 cents) for each time they said there were more dots on the right side. As predicted, the more creative participants were significantly more likely to give the answer that paid more.

    "Dishonesty and innovation are two of the topics most widely written about in the popular press," the authors wrote. "Yet, to date, the relationship between creativity and dishonest behavior has not been studied empirically. … The results from the current article indicate that, in fact, people who are creative or work in environments that promote creative thinking may be the most at risk when they face ethical dilemmas."

    The authors concede some important limitations in their work, most notably that they created situations in which participants were tempted by money to cheat. They suggested that future research should investigate whether creativity would lead people to satisfy selfish, short-term goals rather than their higher aspirations when faced with self-control dilemmas, such as eating a slice of cake when trying to lose weight.
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    Senior Member VitkiValkyrie's Avatar
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    Plagiarism is cheating, it makes me suspect that some cheating original thinkers may not be original at all. Although i agree that being original is seeking unorthodox solutions, cheating is intellectual dishonesty. If you are smart enough to think, you wouldn't need to cheat.

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    I think I can ration some of the findings of that study:

    In olden times, I would once or twice take along a court note sheet in a smaller-scale closed-book exam, and reason it with opining that an exam was not about who could learn the handout off by heart best, but about who understood the subject matter best and with whom a few notes would open a whole realm of original thought beyond that. Being officially allowed 200 words of notes for my Higher History Extended Essay for instance is what made it so outstanding.

    Your mind has limited storage for the perception of information, a closed-book exam occupies a few and might actually hamper original thought much more than if you learnt the whole thing by heart. Learning virtually the entire handout off by heart means that you're going to parrot another person's thoughts in an exam, I prefer having some outline from which to draw up a comprehensive answer full of clever, original thoughts. Hence my strong opposition to closed-book exams.

    That being said, I know a guy who was less inclined to understand the subject matter at hand, taking along the revision sheet from the teacher therefore, but only received a B in the given exam anyway, probably because it had too little original thought and too much taken from the book, so obvious cheating isn't an automatic A+, you could still technically fail.
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    I think trying to find a catch-all explanation might really be to miss the point of what creativity and originality mean, but I have a couple of theories.

    Creative people are naturally going to be more likely to reject 'received wisdom', ideas drilled into them by their parents, their society, their education etc. 'It's wrong to cheat' is something strongly forced on all of us, but it's not an idea ever really dressed in too much detail. It's an idea that needs to exist in order to level the playing field, to make society 'fair' and 'just', but it's hardly an absolute evil. A smart person -- especially one of the variety that can question their surroundings, that is, the creative -- is naturally going to use his gift at some point to tuck into the values he's presented with, get to the bottom of them, realise he can manipulate them/circumvent them/ignore them to his advantage in order to get a good head start in any given endeavor, and do just that.

    Moreover, these types probably don't feel they have anything to prove to themselves. They've succeeded countless times before. They know all the scenery by now along the oft-taken long path. There's not much of interest to be found along it anymore, so they take the short-cut. Keep in mind, they also probably have no love for 'mainstream ideas', 'mainstream education', and, naturally, the latter's 'mainstream tests', least of all multiple choice tests. Academia and the world of work are seen as things that stunt, suppress, even punish their creativity. No doubt they're resentful of this fact. Both academia and employment probably come to be seen by the original and creative as irritating distractions from what ideally the freethinker would spend his time doing. They have no real loyalty to these entities, and feel no real guilt over 'lying' and cheating when they have to deal with them or operate within them. School for me was a drag. I learned quite early that grades depended on telling the teacher what he wanted to hear, not what I wanted to say. Lying kind of became second nature. I never believed a word of anything that ever got me an A grade, and I always considered those grades more to be 'good reviews' of my ability to BS than anything else. Yes, I put my own work into these lies, but it was dishonesty all the same.

    Anyway, having no interest in 'normal' things, and therefore no energy or patience for them, non-conformists probably seek to get the maximum benefit from the smallest effort. I don't even think their cheating is much of an indictment of their character. They probably do have integrity when it comes to doing their own thing in their own space. I suppose this is where the myopia of modern society exposes itself: someone who rejects the means (and sometimes even the ends) of modern society appears a scoundrel, a drop-out, a rotten character etc., regardless of the nature of, or reasons behind, his intellectual lifestyle. Someone who rejects the values and lifestyle of, say, materialism (and this is just an example, since I know most of these particular non-conformists still wanted that damn money ) is a loser, a failure, whether he spends his spare time joyriding stolen cars or painting pictures and writing poetry. I think these types superficially mirror the choices of less intelligent people, because at a certain level of brilliance it becomes clear that in many ways the uneducated have it right, and the 'educated' wrong -- the former living much happier lives than the latter. From this realisation, they take short-cuts like the uneducated, they lie and cheat at times, they reject 'educated' values, take no interest in playing by its rules etc., all like the uneducated. Studies that start from the foundation of educated values, incapable of differentiating between different types of 'non-conformist', are going to find everyone in their (very large) blindspot to be similar. (Interestingly, the finding that, discounting creative intelligence, people of lower intelligence and those of higher were roughly equal in honesty, does militate against this point, but I suspect those of 'truly lower ability' weren't in the sample. I'm fairly sure that both 'creatively intelligent' and 'unintelligent' people are more likely to cheat than are the 'generally intelligent'.)

    And, of course, probably the most important point in the article is its finding that 'general intelligence' and 'creative intelligence' are very different animals. Creativity is the key to thinking in all the ways I described above, not intelligence as such. 'General intelligence', being perfectly compatible with conformity, is going to describe the choices and thought processes of the majority of intelligent people, and mask any overall difference (or similarity) in intelligent vs unintelligent thought when nothing to distinguish between internal differences in those groups is offered.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd
    Learning virtually the entire handout off by heart means that you're going to parrot another person's thoughts in an exam.
    Parroting another person's thoughts is the whole point of state education.

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    So is that the problem? Our leaders are creative, and therefore, unethical?

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