Are Creative People More Dishonest?

Former investment adviser Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges stemming from his orchestration of a massive Ponzi scheme, for which he was sentenced to 150 years in prison Photograph by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

The Evil Genius is a familiar trope. It’s everywhere from Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the James Bond villain known as “Number 1.” Recent research indicates that a psychological truth may underlie the stereotype. Studies conducted by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University suggest that creativity fuels dishonesty and that dishonest behavior triggers creativity. “It may be a cycle that reinforces itself,” says Gino. “You could have a situation in which creativity initially pushes you across the line and then dishonesty heightens creativity, which might make it easier to cheat again. It’s a downward spiral.”

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