Cognitive dissonance and ethics

Creativity can be defined as the ability to produce ideas that are original and unexpected but at the same time useful.

The personal characteristics of each one of us, the attraction to complexity or ambiguity tolerance are factors considered vital to the creative process, but the context factors also influence creativity.

“High levels of divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility are likely to be associated with dishonest behavior when individuals are motivated to think creatively, either because of their own personalities or because of cues in the surrounding environment. – Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely

Using divergent thinking we can create new options and we are therefore able to multiply them to understand and apply the consumer behavior in the creation of new products or new experiences.

Divergent thinking is also a form that we have at our disposal to develop unique ways to break the rules.

But “To break the rules, you must first master them – 40 years ago, Audemars Piguet broke all rules of fine watchmaking when in 1972 it introduced the ground-breaking design of the Royal Oak, the first luxury sports watch in Haute Horlogerie.

Break the rules or ignore the rules, especially moral rules, can be a negative side of our creative activity.

If we use our creative ability for not being firm in the pursuit of our ethical standards and moral values and with the help of our cognitive flexibility we reread information to justify our immoral actions, we’re creating the dark side of creativity.

Creativity has neither time nor place nor is an ability of a particular discipline. Creativity arises both in painting as in technology, both in cooking as in accounting, but sometimes the ethical issues are more urgent.

“By definition, creativity is morally neutral. The myth that it’s good is a dangerous misconception. Societies must constantly strive to ensure that novel ideas in government, business, education, and every other realm are wedded to strong ethical values.” – Teresa Amabile

So what happens when we fall back on our abilities to justify our ethical attitudes and build beautiful stories that sponsor our decisions?

The way, how we deal with two thoughts that contradict themselves, can be by reducing this dissonance by altering the existing conditions with the introduction of new conditions that create more consistency.

People often interpret the same information radically different ways to support their own views of the world. To give our opinion on a controversial point, we conveniently forget what goes against our own theory and remember everything that fits.

People quickly adjust its values to adjust their behavior, even when it is clearly immoral.

“The ability of most people to behave dishonestly might be bounded by their ability to cheat and at the same time feel that they are behaving as moral individuals. To the extent that creativity allows people to more easily behave dishonestly and rationalize this behavior, creativity might be a more general driver of this type of dishonesty and play a useful role in understanding unethical behavior.”- Mazar

The duel between the evil and the good or between the comfort of elaborate justifications but biased and the discomfort of acceptance of failure tends to be won by cheating.

Do you want to comment?


2 Responses to Why do ordinary people have a grey side in creativity?

  1. Hi Jose – interesting thoughts. Really creative approaches need an ability to think of “breaking the rules” in the existing situation. This doesn’t need to be negative, as long as the implementation is ethically positive. I don’t think it’s a problem, because you can usually make the judgement that the rules that need breaking aren’t ethically problematic, just barriers that get in the way of helping people, whether commercially or philanthropically.


    • Jose Baldaia says:

      Hi Kevin!
      I agree. Breaking the rules is not necessarily negative. It is often the only way to avoid negative situations.
      Thanks for the comment,

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