Why we reject creative ideas

Summary:Researchers from Cornell, Penn and UNC determine that we all harbor a subtle bias against creativity -- and it comes from a need for certainty.

Most people view creativity as an asset. So why do we reject creative ideas so often in real life?

Researchers sought to understand this phenomenon and found that the uncertainty of creativity often led to the rejection of such ideas -- even when creativity itself is a stated goal.

To find out, Cornell University professor Jack Goncalo, University of Pennsylvania professor Jennifer Mueller and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill's Shimul Melwani put participants through a series of mental association tests that revealed their reactions to certain words and situations, such as winning a lottery.

They found that study participants associated creative ideas with negative words -- such as "vomit," "poison" and "agony" -- even when they said outright that they favored creativity.

Simply, there was a subtle bias against creativity that favored practicality. And it was motivated by a need to achieve certainty, even in the face of novel new products, such as a nanotechnology-infused running shoe (said to better cool the foot and reduce blisters) used during the study.

The researchers write:

Uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most. Revealing the existence and nature of a bias against creativity can help explain why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancements, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary. ... The field of creativity may need to shift its current focus from identifying how to generate more creative ideas to identify how to help innovative institutions recognize and accept creativity.

Their results will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, but you can read the entire paper here.

[via ForbesLifehacker]

Photo: Ryan Berry/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation


Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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