In a recent paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at Harvard and Duke Universities demonstrate that creativity can lead people to behave unethically. In five studies, the authors show that creative individuals are more likely to be dishonest, and that individuals induced to think creatively were more likely to be dishonest. Importantly, they showed that this effect is not explained by any tendency for creative people to be more intelligent, but rather that creativity leads people to more easily come up with justifications for their unscrupulous actions.
The authors hypothesized that it is creativity which causes unethical behavior by allowing people the means to justify their misdeeds, but it is hard to say for certain whether this is correct given the correlational nature of the study. It could just as easily be true, after all, that unethical behavior leads people to be more creative, or that there is something else which causes both creativity and dishonesty, such as intelligence. To explore this, the authors set up an experiment in which participants were induced into a creative mindset and then given the opportunity to cheat. [It did.]
In addition, the researchers had guessed that creativity would lead to unethical behavior because it enabled people to more easily come up with justifications for their actions. Research has previously shown that whenever people do something which might be perceived as bad, they tend to reduce the ‘badness’ of this behavior by finding some justification for their corrupt behavior. As an example, if you find yourself being less than honest on your taxes, you may justify this by telling yourself that this is something everyone does, or that it doesn’t really hurt anyone.
The craziest part about this is the final experiment, that basically shows that one of the primary reasons why people don't cheat is that they can't come up with their own justifications for their behavior and that once you provide a readymade justification for them, they are much more likely to cheat:
So, if creativity leads to dishonesty primarily by assisting in coming up with justifications for dishonest behavior a creative mindset should not influence people’s likelihood of cheating if they already have some justification in mind. To test this idea, the researchers provided ‘justifications’ for some participants by allowing them to roll the die multiple times, but telling them that only the first roll counted. It turns out that one way of increasing the ease with which people can come up with justifications is by allowing them to observe something which almost happened, but didn’t. In this case, rolling a six on the second roll after rolling a lower number on the first, critical roll should give people a leg up on justifying their dishonest behavior.
It was found that when asked to roll the die once, people not primed with creativity were relatively honest. Individuals primed with creativity, on the other hand, behaved much more dishonestly, reporting much higher die rolls on average. Further, this effect disappeared when people rolled the die multiple times. That is, when people were provided with help to think up justifications, creativity had no effect on cheating. This pattern of results seems to confirm that creativity helps people to think up justifications for dishonest behavior.
These studies demonstrate that there is indeed a dark side to creativity. Perhaps, given this information, it should come as no surprise that the best and brightest in many fields are frequently caught in all manner of immoral transgressions.
Now empaths who want to acquire the skills of a sociopath have yet another avenue to pursue in cultivating an ability to be morally blind -- creativity. According to the article, all sorts of activities can get you in that cheating frame of mind, even something as simple as arranging the words sky, is, why, blue, and the, into the sentence, “the sky is blue”. This may also be why showbusiness is so cutthroat.