Social rejection can boost creativity, researchers find

October 18, 2012 by Mary Catt

(Medical Xpress)—Social misfits, rejoice. You might be more like Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga and Albert Einstein than you realize, if rejection boosts your creativity, reports a new Cornell study.

Being an outcast can lead to heightened creativity—even commercial success, according to research by Lynne Vincent, M.S./Ph.D. '12, an ILR visiting lecturer; Sharon Kim, M.S./Ph.D. '11, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University; and Jack Goncalo, ILR associate professor.

"We show that's possible ... if you have the right way of managing rejection," Goncalo said in an interview. "Feeling different can help you reach creative solutions."

Unlike people who have a strong need to belong, some socially rejected people shrug off rejection with an attitude of "normal people don't get me and I am meant for something better," he said. "Our paper is the first to show how that works."

"Outside Advantage: Can Fuel Creative Thought?" was named a best paper by the Managerial and Organizational Cognition Division.

Kim, Vincent and Goncalo accepted the award in Boston in early August at the annual conference of the Academy of Management, the world's largest and oldest scholarly management association.

The research will be published in the : General.

The three reached their conclusions after a series of experiments in which rejection was manipulated; participants were told that everyone in the study could choose whom they would work with on a team project and later told "nobody picked them," Goncalo said.

That kind of exclusion—in the workplace or elsewhere—stimulated creativity for people with an independent sense of self.

Goncalo and his colleagues don't dismiss the rejection has on many individuals.

But, for some, it has a golden lining, researchers said.

In short, "For the socially rejected, creativity may be the best revenge."

Explore further: Is there a hidden bias against creativity?

Related Stories

Is there a hidden bias against creativity?

November 18, 2011

CEOs, teachers, and leaders claim they want creative ideas to solve problems. But creative ideas are rejected all the time. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of ...

Powerful people overestimate their height

January 9, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- The psychological experience of power makes people feel taller than they are, according to research by ILR School associate professor of organizational behavior Jack Goncalo and a Washington University ...

Recommended for you

Women and men react differently to infidelity

October 8, 2015

If your partner has sex with someone else, it is considered infidelity - even if no emotions are involved. But it is also considered infidelity when your significant other develops a close personal relationship with someone ...

Repeating aloud to another person boosts recall

October 6, 2015

Repeating aloud boosts verbal memory, especially when you do it while addressing another person, says Professor Victor Boucher of the University of Montreal's Department of Linguistics and Translation. His findings are the ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (2) Oct 18, 2012
"Social rejection can boost creativity, researchers find"

...and this is surprising because...???

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.