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The Creativity of Lying: Divergent Thinking and Ideational Correlates of the Resolution of Social Dilemmas

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  • Institute for Technology and management, navi mumbai

Abstract and Figures

Lying is generally viewed negatively in Western society. Notwithstanding, it is a ubiquitous expedient for achieving social goals such as fostering harmony, sparing the feelings of friends, concealing wrongdoing, or exploiting others. Despite the wide use of deception, little research has explored what creativity may underlie it. Are novel liars the most effective at achieving their goals? Are those higher in divergent thinking or in ideation more effective in deception? As a preliminary attempt to chart the relationship between creativity and deception, 18 social dilemmas were written for which deception offered a desirable resolution; 89 college students responded to them, 21 males and 68 females. Their resolutions were coded for novelty, effectiveness in achieving the goals called for in the dilemmas in the short term, and their likely long-term damage on the liar–target relationship. A measure of divergent thinking was also administered, as was a measure of ideational tendencies (Ideational Behavioral Scale, Runco, Plucker, & Lim, 200138. Runco , M. A. , Plucker , J. A. , & Lim , W. ( 2001 ). Development and psychometric integrity of a measure of ideational behavior . Creativity Research Journal , 13 , 393 – 400 . [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]View all references). Among the major findings, creative liars tended to be higher in divergent thinking and more ideational. Theoretical and practical implications are considered.
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The Creativity of Lying: Divergent Thinking and Ideational
Correlates of the Resolution of Social Dilemmas
Jeffrey J. Walczyk
Louisiana Tech University
Mark A. Runco
University of Georgia, Athens, and the Norwegian School of Economics and Business
Administration
Sunny M. Tripp and Christian E. Smith
Louisiana Tech University
Lying is generally viewed negatively in Western society. Notwithstanding, it is a
ubiquitous expedient for achieving social goals such as fostering harmony, sparing
the feelings of friends, concealing wrongdoing, or exploiting others. Despite the wide
use of deception, little research has explored what creativity may underlie it. Are novel
liars the most effective at achieving their goals? Are those higher in divergent thinking or
in ideation more effective in deception? As a preliminary attempt to chart the relation-
ship between creativity and deception, 18 social dilemmas were written for which decep-
tion offered a desirable resolution; 89 college students responded to them, 21 males and
68 females. Their resolutions were coded for novelty, effectiveness in achieving the goals
called for in the dilemmas in the short term, and their likely long-term damage on the
liar–target relationship. A measure of divergent thinking was also administered, as was
a measure of ideational tendencies (Ideational Behavioral Scale, Runco, Plucker, & Lim,
2001). Among the major findings, creative liars tended to be higher in divergent thinking
and more ideational. Theoretical and practical implications are considered.
This article addresses a question that has received little
attention in the creativity literature. How much creativ-
ity is involved in deception? One of the reasons for this
lack of attention is that creativity is generally heralded
in positive, often exalted, terms. Lying, on the other
hand, is typically frowned on and is widely condemned
(Saxe, 1991). With such diametrically opposed concep-
tualizations, perhaps it should not be surprising that
creativity and deception have not been regarded by
behavioral researchers as potentially related. However,
exploring this relation may be both theoretically and
practically important. For instance, if creativity is
indeed involved in deception, this would represent a
departure from traditional formulations of the construct
worthy of note.
Creativity: Malevolence and Benevolence
The generation of creative products, intellectual, artistic,
or otherwise, is often regarded as a manifestation of one
of the highest attainments of personal growth and devel-
opment (Maslow, 1973; May, 1976; Rogers, 1961). Such
a view is based on humanistic theories of human nature
whereby creative expression is a sign, a quintessential
one, of self-actualization. Self-actualization is a state
of neurosis-free happiness, spontaneity, and authenticity
Author Note: Arthur Cropley served as Action Editor for this
article.
Correspondence should be sent to Jeffrey J. Walczyk, Psychology
and Behavioral Sciences, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA
71272. E-mail: Walczyk@latech.edu
CREATIVITY RESEARCH JOURNAL, 20(3), 328–342, 2008
Copyright #Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1040-0419 print=1532-6934 online
DOI: 10.1080/10400410802355152
that entails the fulfillment of individuals’ full potential
in socially approved ways (Maslow, 1973; May, 1976).
Yet creativity is multifarious and expresses itself in
many different forms, some positive and others negative.
McLaren (1993), for example, went into great detail
about ‘‘the dark side of creativity.’’ More recently,
Cropley, Kaufman, and Cropley (2008) examined what
they called malevolent creativity. To illustrate,
they hypothesized that malevolent creativity was
utilized in masterminding the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001. Few Americans would think of
those who conceived of, planned, or executed this deadly
plot in a positive manner. When viewing the situation
objectively, however, it is clear that a great deal of
innovation and intellectual energy was allocated to the
formulation of this novel but destructive act of terror.
James, Clark, and Cropazano (1999) distinguished
between negative and positive creativity. In their words,
‘‘the negative aspect of some creative effects is clear even
from the perspective of the actor if some instances of
creativity can be categorized by intent to harm, hinder,
harass, destroy, or achieve unfair or undeserved advan-
tage, whereas other instances are characterized by an
intent to achieve some positive purpose by positive
means ...positive and negative creativity can be dis-
tinguished in part based on the type of outcome goal
involved’’ (pp. 212–213). James et al. (1999) focused on
organizational settings.
The idea of negative and malevolent creativity may
seem aberrant to a majority of individuals, especially
those who have been socialized to conceptualize of
creativity in glowing terms (May, 1976). Accordingly,
Cropley et al. (2008) referred to the typical mindset that
people possess regarding innovativeness as benevolent
creativity; which by definition serves a prosocial purpose
such as generating an elegant scientific theory, a beauti-
ful painting of a landscape, a lovely aria, or a cost-sav-
ing means of mass production. Creative products, along
with their creators, are thought to bring happiness,
entertainment, efficiency, beauty, or understanding into
an appreciative world.
Cropley et al. (2008) further noted that creative
products are more than novel. Indeed, two elements
are essential for products or artifacts to be labeled ‘‘cre-
ative.’’ They must be both novel and effective (also see
Cropley, 1967; MacKinnon, 1962). Novelty refers to
the fact that they must involve artifacts or processes that
have not been observed before and in that respect be
unconventional. Effectiveness refers to the fact that they
must be socially valued or useful, ideally in an elegant
way. A scientific theory, for instance, must explain a
range of phenomena in a parsimonious way. A piece
of music must be well received by audiences. A process
of manufacturing must generate a quality product at
low cost and with minimal defects.
Malevolent Lying
In stark contrast to the generally benevolent way in
which creativity is perceived, many of us hold extremely
negative attitudes about lying (Saxe, 1991). Deception is
typically viewed as repugnant and selfish, a means of
hurting others, exploiting them, or escaping the
consequences of wrongdoing (Barnes, 1994; DePaulo,
Ansfield, Kirkendol, & Boden, 2004). This repugnance
may largely be due to the negative consequences that
can result from lies that come aboveboard. For example,
friendships are strained and marriages may end
(DePaulo & Kashy, 1998; McCornack & Levine, 1990;
Pittman, 1989). Employees may be terminated, and
prospective employees may fail to gain employment if
they lied to obtain a job (Robinson, 1994; Robinson,
Shepherd, & Heywood, 1998). Similarly, detected lies
told by clients undermine counseling (Miller, 1992;
Pittman, 1989). Discovery of deception may spawn
ambiguity and emotional turmoil for individuals within
existing relationships (Planalp & Honeycutt, 1985).
Individuals who realize that a lie has been told to them
(the targets of lies) concerning a significant issue often
become indignant, disenchanted, and skeptical about
the relationship (Bok, 1978), which can negatively
affect their allocation of trust in present and future
relationships.
This orthodox and negative view of lying largely
overshadows prosocial forms of deception that involve
keeping others from harm, preventing hurt feelings, or
genuinely meaning to do good for others (e.g., lies that
conceal plans for a surprise party or that entice children
to believe in Santa Claus; Kaplar & Gordon, 2004).
Beyond prosocial lying, yet another irony is that,
although most individuals view lying as repulsive, they
nonetheless will lie when it is expedient (DePaulo et al.,
2004). The use of deception is often liars’ most efficient
means of contending with innumerable social situations
(Bell & DePaulo, 1996; DePaulo & Kashy, 1998). To
provide an illustration, Lucy tells her friend Margaret
that she is sick and cannot accept the invitation to
Margaret’s party when in fact she does not wish to
attend but does not want to hurt her friend’s feelings.
Thus lying is widely practiced by individuals to achieve
both prosocial and antisocial goals, even though it
is generally condemned, and individuals are loath to
admit it.
Creativity, Ideation, and Deception
To our knowledge, the relationship between creativity
and lying has not been empirically examined. As noted
earlier, the lack of prior research may only demonstrate
that traditional viewpoints on creativity emphasize
benevolence while those on deception emphasize
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 329
malevolence. Even so, in order for them to fabricate (a
term itself connotative of creativity) effectively, liars
may need to occasionally generate creative deceptions
that take account of the unique parameters of a social
situation required to achieve an authentic goal (DePaulo
et al., 2004; DePaulo, Lindsay, Malone, Muhlenbruck,
Charlton, & Harris, 2003; DePaulo & Kashy, 1998).
Intellectual creativity is the ability to perceive what is
ordinary in a novel, atypical way; the ability to detect
problems that others may not recognize; or the ability
to generate original, adaptive, and effective solutions
to problems. It has also been described as the interperso-
nal and intrapersonal process by which unique, superior,
and genuinely valuable ideas are developed (Cropley,
1999; Rosenman, 1988; Runco & Chand, 1995). As
noted previously, lying is used in social situations to
attain specific goals. Furthermore, when deceptions
require novelty to attain social goals, a type of social–
intellectual creativity may be involved.
The brand of creativity required to solve intellectual
problems has often been labeled divergent thinking,
which ‘‘involves producing multiple or alternative
answers from available information. It requires making
unexpected combinations, recognizing links among
remote associates, transforming information into unex-
pected forms, and the like (Cropley, 2006, p. 391). A
large body of research has relied on tests of divergent
thinking as estimates of the potential for creative think-
ing (Guilford, 1968; Runco, 1991, 1999; Torrance,
1995). Divergent thinking is not synonymous with cre-
ative potential, but it is a useful theory for understand-
ing original ideation, novelty, and the potential for
creative problem solving.
Deception has also been empirically studied.
Walczyk, Roper, Seeman, and Humphreys (2003) along
with Walczyk, Schwartz, Clifton, Adams, Wei, and Zha
(2005), for instance, recently proposed the Activation-
Decision-Construction Model (ADCM), a cognitive
account of the mental events behind deception. By their
account, lying is a form of social problem solving that,
depending on the uniqueness of the circumstances,
may require divergent thinking abilities to be effective
in achieving a goal, which generally includes not damag-
ing the liar–target relationship while taking account of
nuances of a social situation (DePaulo et al., 2004;
DePaulo & Kashy, 1998). Though a positive correlation
between creative potential and lying effectiveness is
predicted by the ADCM, an association between the
creativity of a lie (its effective novelty) and a measure
of divergent thinking potential has not been demon-
strated, a gap addressed in this research.
Another purpose of this study was to explore how the
tendency to be ideational relates to the creativity of
lying. The tendency to be ideational is involved in diver-
gent thinking, but ideation is not necessarily divergent.
It is simply the propensity to produce ideas, to free
associate, and to consider options (Runco, Plucker, &
Lim, 2001), which may or may not imply effective
novelty. The Runco Ideational Behavior Scale (RIBS)
assesses this tendency. One of its virtues is that it focuses
on actual behavior which occurs outside of the labora-
tory. It is in several ways a good complement to tests
of divergent thinking. Accordingly, based on the preced-
ing argument, because lying may partially depend on the
tendency to generate novel responses in authentic
settings, the tendency to be ideational was expected to
be positively associated with the tendency to generate
a variety of creative responses to social dilemmas,
especially involving deception.
Research Strategy
To assess the ability to lie creativity, social dilemmas
were generated or adapted that placed protagonists
(role-played by participants) in situations in which
lying was an attractive alternative for extricating them-
selves from awkward contexts or achieving other social
goals. The creativity with which participants resolved
these dilemmas was coded. Specifically, resolutions
were assessed for their effective novelty and long-term
damage on the liar–target relationship. Regarding the
latter, effective lying should not only achieve its
immediate goal but generally should preserve the
liar–target relationship (DePaulo et al., 2004; DePaulo
& Kashy, 1998). Moreover, a measure of divergent
thinking (Creativity Assessment Package) and a
measure of ideation (Runco Ideational Behavior Scale)
were administered.
Correlational Hypothesis Tested and Their Justifications:
1. The correlation between the immediate effectiveness
of a lie in resolving a social dilemma and its novelty
will be positive. Not all social situations calling for
deception will necessitate unusual lies. In routine
situations, such as sparing your close friend’s feel-
ings when asked about her ugly new dress, they
might make the lies less plausible. In less routine
situations, however, novel lies may be required
inasmuch as the situations themselves do not elicit
a standard lie schema (Barnes, 1994; DePaulo
et al., 2003).
2. Lies that are immediately effective will be associa-
ted with lies that are minimally damaging to the
liar–target relationship in the long term. As noted
above, lies typically are not only designed to
achieve immediate social goals but are also
intended to preserve the trust of liar–target rela-
tionships, except when these relationships are
characterized by acrimony (e.g., the target is a
hated enemy; DePaulo & Bell, 1996). Moreover,
330 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
telling effective lies minimizes the likelihood of
their detection and, in so doing, also preserves the
trust of a liar–target relationship (DePaulo et al.,
2003).
3. The creativity of lies generated (their effective
novelty) will correlate positively with both divergent
thinking ability and with the tendency to be idea-
tional. As argued in the introduction, lying can
be construed to be a form of social problem solv-
ing that occasionally benefits from the unortho-
doxy provided by divergent thinking ability.
Moreover, the tendency to be ideational, that is,
to experience random thoughts throughout the
day, may provide those high in this trait greater
experience contending with a variety of hypo-
thetical social situations (Runco, Plucker, &
Lim, 2001).
4. The number of lies told will be positively correlated
with divergent thinking ability and with the tend-
ency to be ideational. If the ease of having diver-
gent thoughts and the ease of having random
ideation throughout the day predisposes indivi-
duals to effective social problem solving, as
argued above, then it follows logically that those
high in these qualities should also produce a
greater profusion of possible resolutions to social
dilemmas.
METHOD
Participants
A total of 89 adults participated in this study. Under-
graduate and graduate students, enrolled in psychology
courses of a university in the southern United States,
were offered extra credit in exchange for their partici-
pation. The mean age of the sample was 24.57 (SD ¼
8.69). Their racial composition was diverse: European-
American—56; African-American—16; Hispanic—3;
Asian-American—1; Native-American—2. Gender com-
position was 28 male; 61 female.
Materials and Instruments
Constructing social dilemmas. A total of 18
dilemmas were written, inspired partly by Peterson
(1996), Lindskold and Walters (1983), Shapiro
(1991), and Gerdes (1979). Some of their scenarios
were adapted for the current study. Such vignettes
have been used to explore socially ambiguous beha-
viors such as cheating (Eisenberg, 2004), lying in the
case of the present research. All dilemmas appear in
the Appendix and were written or modified to capture
social situations more or less common in everyday life.
Common to each is that a primary character, the
protagonist, must extricate himself or herself from
an awkward social situation or achieve another social
goal. Dilemmas were further designed in such a way
that the use of deception was an attractive option as
a means of resolving the situation. Lying if recom-
mended in 8 of the dilemmas would serve a pro-social
function. For dilemmas 2, 12, and 13 (see Appendix),
it would spare the feelings of others. For dilemmas 5
and 18, it would protect the self from inappropriate
personal invasion or exploitation. In the case of 3
and 15, it would keep others from harm. For the
remaining 10 dilemmas, lying would be to varying
degrees antisocial or socially irresponsible. For 1, it
would avoid work. For 4 and 17, it would hurt or
exploit others. In the case of 9, 10, 11, and 14, it
would help the protagonist get away with wrongdoing.
For 6, 8, and 16 it would avoid unpleasantness for the
protagonist while violating the trust of an acquaint-
ance or significant other. There was space following
each page for participants to respond to each dilemma
twice. Thus a total of 36 resolutions were possible for
each respondent. For each dilemma, every participant
attempted at least one resolution, as per instructions.
Attempting a second one was optional. Please note
that not all dilemmas were written to require creative
lying. That is, they did not all concern unusual social
situations. In cases of routine dilemmas, mundane
lying could be quite effective.
General procedure for scoring dilemmas. Two
research assistants independently coded each response
from each participant. Resolutions were scored on three
separate occasions. On one occasion ratings were for (a)
the degree to which resolutions would achieve the social
goal called for in the dilemma on an immediate basis.
On a second they were for (b) the novelty of parti-
cipants’ proposed solutions. On a third they were for
(c) whether the resolution would likely cause negative
effects on the relationship between the protagonist and
the target(s) on a long-term basis. Because research
assistants independently coded responses (and without
knowledge of the hypotheses), inter-rater reliabilities
could be ascertained (reliability coefficients based on
Pearson’s r). They are reported below for each of the
three sets of ratings.
Scoring for immediate effectiveness. Using a
Likert scale of 1 to 7 (1 ¼not at all effective,
7¼extremely effective), the coders first assigned a score
to each resolution offered by participants to assess the
probability that it would achieve the goal called for in
the dilemma. Raters were instructed to take account of
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 331
the relationship of the protagonist to the target in each
case regarding the believability and acceptability of the
resolution. Would it compel the target to behave in the
manner called for in the dilemma or otherwise achieve
the goal? On the basis of these criteria the aforemen-
tioned Likert scale was applied. For illustration, con-
sider these examples drawn from the data of highly
effective and highly ineffective resolutions, respectively.
In one response to the sweater dilemma (see dilemma
12 of the Appendix) the participant wrote, ‘‘I would
tell my grandmother that my best friend saw the swea-
ter on me and asked to borrow it.’’ The participant
elaborated that ‘‘My grandmother would be proud of
the sweater that she made and would feel special that
other young people liked it.’’ This was judged to be a
highly effective response, as it is plausible, and one
that could avert feelings of hurt and disappointment
on the part of the grandmother in the short term. In
contrast, an ineffective solution to the same dilemma
was that ‘‘I would tell her that I just did not like the
sweater.’’ This response would be unlikely to be
immediately effective in that it provides no buffer for
the feelings of the grandmother, who would likely be
hurt by such blunt honesty, something to be avoided
per the goal specified in the dilemma. Across the reso-
lutions, inter-rater reliabilities had a range of .39 to
.76, with a median correlation of .49. All correlations
were significant at p<.05.
Scoring for novelty. Another Likert scale with
range from 1 to 7 was utilized for scoring novelty, 1 indi-
cating extreme conventionality and 7 indicating extreme
originality. Novelty was often interpreted to be the likely
mental effort required to construct an answer. Even so,
resolutions involving honesty were not always judged to
be conventional. In such cases it was important to take
into account the manner in which the truth was con-
veyed. To elaborate an honest response with colorful
words or unique phrases would render a higher score
than a blunt statement that reflected no sensitivity to
the context whatsoever. Novel responses readily stood
out for various reasons: some were written in a humor-
ous manner, some were shocking, others were simply
quite different from the typical responses given by
others. An example of a highly novel resolution was pro-
vided by a participant to dilemma 16, who wrote ‘‘I
would say I saw the waiter spit in someone’s coffee.’’
This is a very original, distinctive response that earned
a high novelty rating across raters. A response drawn
from the data that was judged low in novelty involved
dilemma 1. The participant responded that ‘‘I would tell
him that I forgot.’’ The choice of words given in this res-
olution was conventional. Moreover, this response itself
was typical of those given for this dilemma. Inter-rater
reliabilities had a range of .42 to .81, with a median
correlation of .57. All were significant at p<.05.
Scoring for long-term cost. Again using a 1 to 7
Likert scale, ratings were made of the likelihood that
responses would engender negative long-term effects
on protagonist–target relationships; 1 corresponded to
no likelihood of damage, 7 corresponded to irreparable
damage likely ending the relationship. The probability
of damage was judged greater when a given resolution
was cruelly blunt, insensitive, would be likely to foster
a deeply offended reaction, or would contain a false-
hood that might be discovered and create doubt and dis-
trust in the target. An actual minimally damaging
resolution proposed for dilemma 2 was ‘‘You should
wear another outfit that brings out the color of your
eyes and make them shine.’’ This response was judged
to be effective in the long term because it focuses on a
positive aspect of the target instead of making reference
to something negative. It was judged by both raters to be
unlikely to bring about any long-term resentment
between the protagonist and the sister (target). At the
opposite end of the spectrum was a resolution to
dilemma 6 concerning dislike of a mother-in-law: ‘‘I
would tell my spouse that I do not like her mother.’’
Though such blunt honesty might be immediately suc-
cessful in averting having to spend a holiday with a
detested in-law, it would likely be highly insulting to
the spouse and mother-in-law once it became known
to the latter, likely causing long-term resentment for
all parties concerned. This example illustrates that
immediate effectiveness and long-term costs were not
always the same. One was sometimes achieved at the
expense of the other. Inter-rater reliabilities had a range
of .27 to .69, with a median correlation of .44. Once
again, all were significant at p<.05.
Because inter-rater reliabilities were all significant
and positive, data were collapsed across the two raters
(Anastasi & Urbina, 1997). In the case of Likert ratings
of immediate effectiveness, novelty, and long-term costs,
the mean of the scores of the two raters were used in
subsequent analyses. Thus, ratings did not depend on
the perspective of a single individual. Rather, they relied
on the perspective of two individuals.
Both raters independently commented to the first
author after all the scoring was completed that novel
responses were not always the most effective. Bolstering
a point made previously, in more mundane situations
such as lying to a significant other about how much
you like her new ugly dress might be very effective in
not hurting her feelings but is not the least bit unusual
(Bell & DePaulo, 1996; DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol,
Wyer, & Epstein, 1996).
332 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
Creativity Assessment Packet. Developed by
Williams in the 1980s based on his theory of creativity,
the CAP was designed to test individuals’ divergent
thinking and feeling. Specifically, it is a battery for
assessing the creativity-related factors of fluency, flexi-
bility, elaboration, originality, vocabulary, and compre-
hension. Although originally developed to assess the
creative potential of children ages 6 to 18, the CAP is
now widely used to assess creative potential in adults
(Williams, 1991). One of its subtests was used here: the
Test of Divergent Thinking (Forms A and B). Below is
a description of this subtest and its factors.
Test of Divergent Thinking. This subtest was
used to measure a combination of verbal and non-verbal
creative potential. There were 24 frames. Each included
a form with graphic elements or cues intended to elicit
open-ended divergent thinking (free drawing). Five
divergent thinking factors were assessed: fluency, flexi-
bility, elaboration, originality, and titles. The first four
are strongly correlated with the creative process (Wil-
liams, 1991). The fifth score concerned vocabulary syn-
thesis. Thus, five raw scores were obtained for each
participant. In each case, higher scores entailed more
creative potential. The descriptions below clarify these
factors and how they were scored.
1. Fluency. This was a count of the frames
attempted, regardless of what was done in each.
Creative people tend to be more productive, hence
obtaining higher fluency. At one point per frame,
0 to 24 points were possible.
2. Flexibility. The number of times that a drawn pic-
ture shifted in category from the previous frame
constituted this score. There were five categories:
Living, Mechanical, Symbol, View, and Utility.
Creative people tend to shift often, rather than
rigidly persisting in one category. Zero to 23
points were possible, depending on the number
of times the picture category shifted.
3. Originality. Each frame had a closed part created
by a stimulus line or a form shown. Less creative
people are blocked by the closed portion and will
avoid it. More creative people will work inside the
closed part and will draw structures from outside.
Highly creative people also create a synthesis and
tend not to be structured or blocked by any closed
portion. One point was awarded to individuals
who drew only outside of the closure; 2 points
for drawing inside the closure only; 3 points for
drawing both inside and outside the closure (syn-
thesis). Three points possible per frame across 24
frames yielded an overall originality score between
0 and 72.
4. Elaboration. This factor involved the placement
of marks that made a picture asymmetrical. Zero
points were awarded for symmetrical marks
placed both inside and outside the closed space;
1 point for asymmetrical marks placed outside
the closure; 2 points for asymmetrical marks
placed inside the closure; and 3 points for asym-
metrical marks placed throughout, with off-sided
details both inside and outside the closure. Three
points possible per frame across 24 frames
yielded an overall elaboration score between 0
and 72.
5. Titles. Each frame was titled after a drawing was
completed. Length and complexity of vocabulary
usage was considered. Zero points were awarded
when no title was given; 1 point for a simple title
without a modifier; 2 points for a title with a
descriptive modifier; and 3 points for an imaginat-
ive title: expressing a name beyond what is literally
shown in the picture. Three points possible per
frame across 24 frames produced a possible total
title score between 0 and 72.
Test–retest reliabilities between .71 and .76 for the
divergent thinking subtest are reported in the test man-
ual, as are correlations between .59 and .74 between this
subtest and adult judgments of creativity, suggesting
that it measures important aspects of creative potential
(William, 1991).
Runco Ideational Behavior Scale (RIBS–III:
Ideational Behavior Criterion). Ideational behavior
was assessed with the RIBS–III (Runco, Plucker, &
Lim, 2001). The RIBS–III is a self-report measure of
the frequency with which respondents generate ideas
in the natural environment. Many other criteria have
been used in studies of divergent thinking, but these
often focus on achievements and accomplishments;
and such indices may reflect domain-specific motiv-
ation, skill, or opportunity, in addition to ideation.
The RIBS–III was developed to focus as much as poss-
ible on ideation per se, that is, the tendency to produce
ideas in the natural environment.
The RIBS–III contains 72 items, each with five
response options. The directions were as follows: ‘‘Use
the 0–4 scale (given below) to indicate how often each
of the phrases describes your thinking and behavior.
You may need to approximate. Please indicate how
you really think and act, not how you would like
to behave. Remember—no names are used. Your
responses are confidential ...Again, you may need to
approximate. For each item, circle the response
option that is THE CLOSEST to being accurate.’’ The
response options were then provided and were repeated
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 333
below each question. The options were: 0 ¼Never,
1¼approximately once a year, 2 ¼once or twice each
month (approximately), 3 ¼once or twice each week
(approximately), 4 ¼just about every day, sometimes
more than once each day.
The RIBS–III has five subscales. A measure of inter-
nal consistency for each subscale (Cronbach’s a) based
on the present sample appears bracketed following the
description of each. The first, ‘‘Ideational Behavior,’’
(Ideational Total) comprised 44 items and was of
primary importance. A high score indicates that
respondents frequently generate ideas in the natural
environment (e.g., ‘‘I have ideas about what I will be
doing 10 years from now,’’ ‘‘I find it easy to think of
ideas for presents and gifts,’’ ‘‘I have trouble sleeping
at night, so many ideas keep showing themselves and
keep me awake’’) [a¼.92]. The second scale contained
six ‘‘Contraindicative’’ items. Each implied infrequent
ideation. This scale was used partly to avoid ‘‘response
sets’’ whereby individuals give all high or all low
responses. Example items include ‘‘I have difficulty
thinking of what to have for dinner,’’ ‘‘When I put
something together, use a recipe, or use instructions
of some sort, I stick to the plans. I always follow the
instructions carefully.’’ [a¼.36]. There was also a ‘‘Dis-
tracter’’ subscale with 8 items that was included in part
to preclude response sets, but also to keep the measure
from being entirely transparent [a¼.57]. The ‘‘Values’’
subscale contained 3 items which probed respondents’
opinions concerning ideation more than their pro-
duction of ideas (e.g., ‘‘I try to exercise my mind by
thinking things through,’’ ‘‘I put myself in a situation
that will stimulate new ideas,’’ ‘‘I take a playful
approach when solving problems’’) [a¼.57]. Finally,
the ‘‘Accuracy’’ subscale was included to check the ver-
acity of the responses. These 11 items were unlikely to
be answered with a zero (e.g., ‘‘I wonder what other
people are thinking,’’ ‘‘I wonder what other people
are talking about,’’ ‘‘I wonder what it would be like
to make more money’’). The rationale for this subscale
was similar to that of the validity scales of the well-
known MMPI. The Accuracy subscale was not used
to test hypotheses but instead was included to assess
the validity of the RIBS. Individuals with very low
scores on the Accuracy subscale may have been dis-
honest or otherwise responding to all 72 items in a
socially desirable but inaccurate fashion [a¼.81]. The
items from the various subscales were randomly
ordered in the RIBS–III. Items were summed to yield
total scores for each of the subscales.
Procedure
All participants were treated in accordance with the ethi-
cal guidelines set forth by the American Psychological
Association (APA, 2001). Prior to data collection,
approval was obtained from the IRB at the institution
sponsoring this research. Participants received the
instruments and a demographic sheet in the form of
take-home booklets, which they completed at their con-
venience and returned to their instructors. The order of
instruments was randomized across individuals to con-
trol for possible order effects. Participants were not
made aware of the hypotheses until after all the survey
booklets were completed and returned. To protect the
participants’ anonymity, numbers (not names) were
used to label test booklets. In addition, all participants
signed separate, detachable consent forms that indicated
that all test data would be kept anonymous.
RESULTS
An alpha of .05 was used for all statistical tests. Table 1
provides summary statistics for the factors of the diver-
gent thinking subtest of the CAP and the subscales of
the RIBS–III. The moderate mean of the Contraindica-
tive Scale Items of the RIBS–III, along with its small
standard deviation, suggests that participants generally
responded without a response set of marking all items
either at the extreme high or low end of the scale.
Table 2 provides means of novelty, immediate effec-
tiveness, and long-term cost ratings by dilemma
(dilemma numbers correspond to those of the Appen-
dix). Of the number of resolutions attempted for each
dilemma, one or two, the percentage of cases in which
responses involved some use of deception were also
reported. Dilemmas 11 and 12 elicited the highest rate
of deception. The mean percentage of lies told across
scenarios was 73.26 (SD ¼17.25). Except for dilemma
7, which involves bringing together two relatives, and
dilemma 8, which involves confronting a lazy room-
mate, lies were told in a majority of cases as intended
TABLE 1
Summary Statistics for the Creativity Assessment Package and
Runco Ideational Scale
MSD
Divergent Thinking of the CAP
Fluency 22.23 4.27
Flexibility 17.32 3.74
Originality 51.84 13.79
Elaboration 41.38 11.36
Titles 42.84 14.80
Runco Ideational Behavior Scale
Accuracy Scale 27.73 7.73
Contraindicative Scale 11.70 3.47
Distractor Scale 19.20 4.24
Value Scale 4.90 1.51
Ideational Behavior Score 111.13 23.81
334 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
in designing the dilemmas. The mean number scenarios
attempted out of 36 possible was 30.60 (SD ¼6.79).
H1. The correlation between the immediate effectiveness
of a lie in resolving a social dilemma and its novelty will
be positive.
To test H1, mean immediate effectiveness scores were
calculated for each participant using the first response of
each participant to each dilemma inasmuch as all parti-
cipants responded to each dilemma at least once. Thus,
the mean of each participant was based on all 18 dilem-
mas. Mean novelty scores were similarly calculated
using the first response of each participant to each
dilemma. Independent samples ttests were used to
compare males and females on immediate effectiveness
and novelty. No significant differences were found.
Consequently, mean effectiveness and novelty ratings
were combined across gender in subsequent analyses.
A Pearson correlation was then calculated between the
mean immediate effectiveness with which dilemmas were
resolved and the mean novelty of the solutions proposed.
It was significant and positive, r¼.31(89), p<.01. There
was a general tendency for individuals who generated
novel resolutions to generate more effective resolutions.
As a more refined test of H1, correlations were
calculated between ratings of immediate effectiveness
and novelty separately for each of the 18 dilemmas.
These correlations are reported on the right of Table
2. Of the 18 correlations, seven were significantly
positive (dilemmas 1, 6, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 18), thus
partially supporting H1. Reasons why novelty–
effectiveness correlations were positive for these
particular dilemmas but not the others are considered
in the discussion.
H2. Lies that are immediately effective will be associated
with lies that are minimally damaging to the liar–target
relationship in the long-term.
Preliminary to testing H2, the mean long-term cost
on a relationship of resolutions was determined for the
first resolutions of each of the 18 dilemmas for each
participant. An independent samples ttest was again
used to compare males and females on mean ratings.
No significant difference was found. These data too
were collapsed over gender. Please recall that higher
mean ratings on long-term costs correspond to greater
long-term damage to the relationship. Consequently,
negative correlations between immediate effectiveness
and long-term cost support H2. The correlation between
mean long-term cost and mean immediate effectiveness
was 39(89), p<.01. Those resolutions more immedi-
ately effective in achieving a goal in the short run (most
of which involved deception) tended to be less damaging
to the protagonist–target relationship in the long run.
That the correlation is moderate and negative also
shows that ratings of immediate effectiveness and
ratings of long-term cost were in no way redundant. In
other words, these two ratings were tapping distinct
TABLE 2
Mean Ratings for Social Dilemmas, %Deception, and Dilemma Rating Inter-Correlations for Each
Dilemma Novelty
Immediate
Effectiveness
Long-term
Cost
%
Deception
Novelty
Imm. Eff.
r
Imm. Eff.-
LT Cost
r
Dilemma 1
a
4.35 5.33 2.16 89.9 .23.76
Dilemma 2
b
4.26 5.59 1.82 85.4 .14 .47
Dilemma 3
b
3.91 5.53 2.17 79.8 .05 .26
Dilemma 4
a
4.47 5.11 1.81 68.5 .06 .48
Dilemma 5
b
3.91 5.48 2.56 67.4 .18 .72
Dilemma 6
a
4.14 5.64 2.40 74.2 .32.76
Dilemma 7
b
4.17 5.09 2.28 44.9 .07 .46
Dilemma 8
a
3.98 5.50 3.05 23.6 .09 .52
Dilemma 9
a
4.43 5.03 3.25 73.0 .14 .61
Dilemma 10
a
4.18 5.30 3.21 76.4 .04 .81
Dilemma 11
a
4.53 5.00 3.07 95.5 .06 .39
Dilemma 12
b
4.20 6.51 1.47 93.3 .16 .81
Dilemma 13
b
3.74 4.64 2.84 67.4 .24.10
Dilemma 14
a
3.47 4.01 3.17 66.3 .18 .19
Dilemma 15
b
4.01 5.91 3.21 84.3 .32.69
Dilemma 16
a
4.62 5.69 2.21 88.8 .26.41
Dilemma 17
a
4.16 5.53 3.81 83.1 .58.59
Dilemma 18
b
3.48 5.51 4.42 65.2 .42.38
a
Scenario calls for antisocial resolution.
b
Scenario calls for prosocial resolution.
p<.05.
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 335
constructs, namely the short-term versus long-term
impact of a deception.
Just as with the test of H1, a more refined test of H2
occurred by correlating immediate effectiveness and
long-term cost ratings for each of the 18 dilemmas. They
are also reported on the right of Table 2. In general
support of H3, 14 correlations were negative and signifi-
cant, indicating that resolutions judged to be immediately
effective were also judged to be minimally damaging of
the relationship in the long term. Two of the observed
correlations were negative but not significant (dilemmas
13 and 14), perhaps due to insufficient power of the
present modest sample size. Interestingly, for two dilem-
mas (17 and 18) correlations were significantly positive,
contrary to what was predicted. In these cases, there
was an apparent trade-off. Immediate effectiveness came
at the expense of long-term damage to the protagonist–
target relationship. Possible reasons for these two dis-
crepant correlations are proffered in the discussion.
H3. The creativity of lies generated (their effective
novelty) will correlate positively with both divergent
thinking ability and with the tendency to be ideational.
To test H3, dilemma rating means based on all 18
dilemmas (immediate effectiveness, long-term cost,
novelty) were factor analyzed using a principal compo-
nents solution followed by a Varimax orthogonal rotation
(Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1995). Factor analysis
isadatareductionprocedurecommonlyusedtosimplifya
data set by combining correlated variables into a single
latent construct called a factor score. Per convention, fac-
tors with eigenvalues greater than one and loadings with an
absolute value of .4 or more were interpreted. These results
can be found in Table 3. Factor scores were retained for
further analyses. As can be seen, two factors emerged.
The largest, Factor 1, had immediate effectiveness and
long-term cost load on it, the latter loading negatively. It
has been labeled ‘‘short- and long-term effectiveness.’’ In
its case, lower scores mean greater immediate effectiveness
that is less damaging to the liar–target relationship. The
second, Factor 2, had novelty and immediate effectiveness
both load positively on it. Accordingly, it has been called
‘‘creativity.’’ Higher scores correspond to greater effective
novelty. Both the short- and long-term effectiveness factor
and creativity factor were then correlated with divergent
thinking factors and ideational total.
Correlations involving the creativity factor scores are
crucial for testing H3. These results appear in Table 4.
No correlations between divergent thinking factor
scores and ideation, on the one hand, and short- and
long-term effectiveness factor scores, on the other, were
significant. However, four of six of the corresponding
correlations involving the creativity factor were signifi-
cant. Specifically, the divergent factors of originality,
elaboration, and titles were all positively correlated with
creativity factor scores (effective novelty), as was
ideational total. To summarize, those higher in diver-
gent thinking and ideation tend to also be creative liars,
confirming H3.
For exploratory purposes, the significant correlates
of creative lying of Table 4 (originality, elaboration,
titles, and ideation total) were entered as the predictors
in a multiple regression in which the creativity factor
was the criterion. Thus, their collective and unique
predictive power could be determined. The overall
regression model was highly significant F(4,94) ¼4.057,
p<.005, adj.R
2
¼.122. Although collectively the
predictors accounted for significant variance in lying
creativity, none of the individual predictors accounted
for a significant amount of unique variance, with the
exception of ideation total, which had a marginally sig-
nificant standardized beta weight (b?¼.197, p¼.057).
H4. The number of lies told will be positively correlated
with divergent thinking ability and with the tendency to
be ideational.
To test H4, correlations were calculate between
subscales of the CAP and ideational total of the
RIBS–III, on the one hand, and the total number of lies
told and total number of resolutions attempted, on the
other. These correlations are reported in Table 5. The
divergent thinking factor of fluency was positively
TABLE 3
Factor Loadings for Dilemma Ratings
Factor 1: Short- and
Long-Term Effectiveness
Factor 2:
Creativity
Immediate effectiveness .71.50
Novelty .02 .95
Long-term cost .91 .16
%Variance of correlation
matrix explained by factor
49.03 34.75
Italicized factor loading were interpreted.
TABLE 4
Correlations of Dilemma Rating Factor Scores with Divergent
Thinking Factors and Ideational Total
Factor 1: Effectiveness Factor 2: Creativity
Divergent thinking
Fluency .09 .18
Flexibility .02 .08
Originality .01 .32
Elaboration .04 .23
Titles .07 .28
RIBS–III
Ideational total .19 .24
p<.05.
336 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
correlated with the number of lies told and the number
of resolutions attempted. Originality was positively
correlated with the number of lies told as well. Thus,
H4 was partially supported in the cases of two measures
of divergent thinking.
Ideational total was significantly positively correlated
with the number of lies told. Moreover, it was signifi-
cantly positively correlated with the number of resolu-
tions attempted. In other words, those higher in the
tendency to experience random thoughts throughout
the day more readily generated resolutions (including
deceptive ones) when confronted with social dilemmas.
Consequently, H4 was strongly supported in the case
of the RIBS–III.
DISCUSSION
The goal of this study was to explore the relationship
between the ability to lie creatively, on the one hand,
and the extent of divergent thinking ability and the tend-
ency to be ideational, on the other. Though the research
was exploratory, four tentative hypotheses were prof-
fered. The major findings are interpreted below, fol-
lowed by identification of limitations of the present
research and suggestions for future research directions.
H1. The correlation between the immediate effectiveness
of a lie in resolving a social dilemma and its novelty will
be positive.
H1 was concerned with how the novelty of resolutions
of social dilemmas relates to their immediate effective-
ness, especially when deception is involved. Effective
resolutions often tended to be novel, supporting this
hypothesis. When broken down by dilemma (see
Table 2), however, immediate effectiveness–novelty cor-
relations showed the predicted pattern for only seven of
18 dilemmas. Specifically, significant positive correlations
were found for dilemmas 1, 6, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 18. Only
in these cases did effective solutions entail more novelty.
Why was the predicted pattern observed for seven
dilemmas but not the others? To answer this question
we examined data of Table 2, hoping to uncover obvious
ways in which dilemmas showing the predicted pattern
differed systematically from the others. The two sets of
dilemmas did not appear to differ on whether lies were
pro-social or antisocial, nor did they differ on the per-
centage of deception elicited, or the novelty, immediate
effectiveness, or long-term costs of the resolutions gener-
ated. There was a tendency, however, for dilemmas in
which the predicted pattern was found to involve
emotionally extreme relationships (e.g., ex-lovers—17;
current significant others—1, 6; enemies—18) or
emotionally extreme issues (e.g., protecting a friend
from a potential date rapist—15; discovering shocking
personal information about another—16). When social
dilemmas involve close or volatile relationships or con-
cern highly sensitive issues, individuals typically are
much more motivated to resolve them successfully
(McCornack & Levine, 1990; Pittman, 1989). At least
for these six dilemmas, participants might have taken
them much more seriously than the others and tried to
generate highly successful resolutions, which typically
involve both novelty and immediate effectiveness
(Cropley et al., 2008).
Another possibility, not incompatible with the pre-
ceding, is that these six dilemmas above involved
unusual social situations that accordingly required novel
deceptions to be successfully resolved. At the other
extreme, the other dilemmas may have been more mun-
dane, requiring only routine deceptions for their resol-
ution. As noted previously, deception need not be
novel to be effective. In fact, excessive novelty can back-
fire to make a deception less credible, such as when too
much embellishment undermines a false alibi (DePaulo
et al., 1996; DePaulo et al., 2003). Unfortunately, we
did not pilot-test the dilemmas to ascertain the novelty
of each. Readers are encouraged to read through the
dilemmas to assess the intuitive appeal of this account.
Future research must empirically validate these possibi-
lities as well.
H2. Lies that are immediately effective will be associated
with lies that are minimally damaging to the liar–target
relationship in the long term.
Typically, part of the effectiveness of a lie is not only
achieving its immediate goal, for instance, concealing
wrongdoing, but also not causing lasting damage to
the liar–target relationship (DePaulo et al., 2004;
DePaulo & Kashy, 1998; Kaplar & Gordon, 2004;
Lindskold & Walters, 1983). Analyses generally
supported H2. The correlation involving overall mean
TABLE 5
Correlations of Divergent Thinking and the RIBS–III with the
Frequency of Dilemma Resolution
Number of Lies
Told
Total Number of
Resolutions Attempted
Divergent thinking
Fluency .25.24
Flexibility .13 .16
Originality .23.14
Elaboration .06 .11
Titles .09 .06
RIBS–III
Ideational total .30.32
p<.05.
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 337
ratings and the more refined correlations for
each dilemma of Table 2 usually revealed negative
relationships between immediate effectiveness and
long-term costs. In other words, those lies high in effec-
tiveness in the short term tended to be minimally dam-
aging to the protagonist–target relationship in the long
term.
For two dilemmas, however, 17 and 18, a pattern
strikingly different from that of the other dilemmas
was observed. Instead of significant negative correla-
tions, in each case significant positive correlations were
observed. That is, resolutions that were immediately
effective also tended to be more damaging to the protag-
onist–target relationship. One remarkable fact that dis-
tinguishes these two dilemmas from the others is that
both involve a protagonist–target relationship charac-
terized by animosity or hatred. Dilemma 17 involves
an ex-lover who hurt the protagonist by ending their
relationship. Dilemma 18 concerns an enemy acting
cordially in order to use the protagonist. Unlike the
other dilemmas, in neither case does the social goal to
be achieved or the nature of the protagonist–target
relationship require that the latter be preserved. On
the contrary, the vast majority of participants proposed
resolutions intended to worsen the relationship by caus-
ing anger, jealousy, or fear in the targets. Clearly the
nature of the protagonist–target relationship, either
positive or negative, must be taken into account when
evaluating the effectiveness of a deception both immedi-
ately and in the long term. In fact, when there is no
interest in preserving a relationship because the target
is loathed, the long-term success of a lie may consist
of breaking off with the target completely (DePaulo &
Kashy, 1998; Pittman, 1989).
H3. The creativity of lies generated (their effective
novelty) will correlate positively with both divergent
thinking ability and with the tendency to be ideational.
A factor analysis of the dilemma rating means based
on all 18 revealed two factors. One concerned short- and
long-term effectiveness. Both immediate effectiveness
and novelty loaded positively on the second, which
was labeled the creativity factor. Factor scores of the lat-
ter were interpreted as assessing the creativity of resolu-
tions, that is, their effective novelty (Cropley et al.,
2008). Correlations of creativity factor scores with idea-
tional total and divergent thinking factors allowed H3 to
be tested (see Table 4). Ideational total and the divergent
thinking factors of originality, elaboration, and titles
were significantly positively correlated with the creativ-
ity of lies generated, largely confirming H3.
Why are those higher in divergent thinking and idea-
tion more creative liars? These findings are tentatively
explainable upon considering the nature of divergent
thinking and ideation. Divergent thinking is an aspect
of intellectual creativity corresponding to the ability to
look at problems in a variety of ways, occasionally rede-
fining them in the process (Cropley, 2006). Moreover,
the tendency to be ideational involves having intrusive
thoughts in a variety of authentic contexts throughout
the day (Runco et al., 2001). Authentic lying such as
was captured in the present dilemmas has been inter-
preted as a form of social problem solving with the
aim of achieving specific interpersonal goals (Walczyk
et al., 2003; Walczyk et al., 2005). Since social problem
solving is by its very nature open-ended in the solutions
it requires (DePaulo & Kashy, 1998; Pittman, 1989), it
stands to reason that the ability to generate a plethora
of possible solutions to social dilemmas should facilitate
generating effective novelty (Tacher & Readdick, 2006).
Moreover, practice at such authentic problem solving
starts early. Among children, divergent thinkers are
more likely to engage in pretend play than those less
divergent (Russ & Schafer, 2006). Additionally, the
tendency to have random ideas in everyday life (be idea-
tional) over time should afford more opportunity to
anticipate and rehearse social scenarios privately that
later enhances social skills such as the ability to lie flex-
ibly (Walczyk et al., 2005). Please note that the preced-
ing accounts are mere possibilities in need of empirical
testing. Moreover, the directions of causality among
the constructs of creative lying, divergent thinking abil-
ity, and the tendency to be ideational are indeterminate
from the present correlational data, again awaiting
future research.
The regression analyses demonstrated that that the
divergent thinking factors of originality, elaboration,
titles, and the tendency to be ideational collectively
accounted for 12%of the variability of the creativity
of lying, though none of the divergent thinking factors
accounted for unique variance. However, ideational
total did. Clearly the tendency to be ideational, though
related to it, is not synonymous with divergent thinking.
The fact that the RIBS–III accounted for unique vari-
ance in the creativity of authentic lying serves to validate
that this measure captures important aspects of creativ-
ity in everyday life, as its authors intended (Runco et al.,
2001).
H4. The number of lies told will be positively correlated
with divergent thinking ability and with the tendency to
be ideational.
Those higher in the divergent factor of fluency were
also likely to propose lying more often and attempt
more resolutions. These particular findings were not
that surprising given that fluency as operationalized in
the CAP entails attempting more drawings (Williams,
1991). Those more motivated to attempt one item type
338 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
were more likely to attempt other item types. The posi-
tive correlation between the RIBS–III and the number
of resolutions attempted (as well as lies told) was more
interesting. Those more likely to have random thoughts
throughout the day may, as noted above, have had
more opportunity to anticipate and play out various
social scenarios in their heads, perhaps a form of social
rehearsal. When confronted with a variety of social
dilemmas, this advanced practice allowed them to more
readily produce varied resolutions, which they shared.
Of course, this account must be tested in future research
and is not provable based on the correlational data of
the present study.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
This research was limited to college students, which
likely skewed the results. For instance, compared to
the general population, college students may be higher
in creative potential (Williams, 1991). Accordingly,
these results need to be replicated with more diverse
samples before they can be generalized confidently.
Additionally, the present sample size was modest. Lar-
ger samples in future research will provide greater power
which, in turn, may result in a greater number of signifi-
cant findings than occurred herein.
Possible causal directions among the constructs were
identified in the preceding discussion. For instance, it was
argued that divergent thinking ability and the tendency
to be ideational may be required to be creative liars, thus
accounting for the associations observed. However, an
anonymous reviewer correctly noted that the direction of
causality could be reversed as suggested by the question
‘‘Why are more creative liars higher in divergent thinking
and ideation?’’ In short, although the directions of caus-
ality we propose may be intuitively logical, they are none-
theless not provable from these data. Caution in
interpreting results should be exercised, and future research
should be designed involving experimental manipulations.
Only then can causal assertions be confidently made.
Another serious limitation is that the inter-rater
reliabilities of dilemma ratings observed (see Method
section) were below the .7 to .8 ranges generally con-
sidered acceptable (Anastasi & Urbina, 1997). Conse-
quently, all results reported herein based on these
ratings need to be interpret cautiously and await repli-
cation in future research before they can be confidently
generalized.
As noted previously, this study was largely explora-
tory, as there have been few prior studies attempting
to connect the seemingly disparate constructs of creativ-
ity and lying. Now that a connection has been observed,
the door has been opened for further research along
these lines. Researchers such as Cropley et al. (2008)
were inspired by the haunting event of the terrorist
attack of September 11, 2001, to explore malevolent
creativity. Horrific life events often result in scientists
clamoring for answers. What sort of individuals would
and could have been capable of masterminding the plot
of 9=11 and hoodwinking many people in the process?
In order to find the answers to this and similar ques-
tions, researchers must not focus solely on anomalies
but must also focus on malevolent creativity that is
commonplace. Creativity is diverse, and presents itself
in various forms, even varying across cultures (Zha,
Walczyk, Griffith-Ross, Tobacyk, & Walczyk, 2006).
As noted earlier, lying is in the mainstream and often
is an antisocial form of social problem solving (Barnes,
1994; DePaulo & Kashy, 1998; Pittman, 1989; Saxe,
1991), which appears to capture important aspects of
divergent thinking. Further exploration should be made,
and in multiple milieus, to understand the creativity
behind deception and other malevolence. For instance,
the necessity to be a creative liar appears to depend on
the novelty of the social dilemma that a protagonist is
confronted with. The more creativity is understood in
all of its manifestations, the more those battling terror
and other malevolently creative acts may be able to
anticipate and thwart their occurrence, especially by
not underestimating the creative potential of terrorists
and other evildoers. At the very least, we hope that this
study will entice behavioral scientists to continue explor-
ing malevolent creativity with an open mind.
Implications
The present findings are theoretically important in
establishing an empirical connection between two differ-
ent domain of inquiry: deception and creativity. As
noted in the introduction, the lack of establishment of
such a connection heretofore may only demonstrate that
these disparate areas of human life carry with them rad-
ically different moral overtones, the former largely nega-
tive (Barnes, 1994; Saxe, 1991; Pittman, 1989) and the
latter predominantly positive (Maslow, 1973; May,
1976; Rogers, 1961). It is useful to note that both lying
and creativity are multifarious, having both positive and
negative moral aspects. As illustrated by the dilemmas
of this research, lying can serve both pro-social and anti-
social purposes. Creativity can do the same (Cropley
et al., 2008).
To conclude, we offer one potential practical benefit
to society of research that continues to explore a connec-
tion between creativity and lying. Undercover work by
CIA operatives, police officers, and other authorities
in the fight against crime and terror often requires that
they lie extemporaneously to keep their identities secret.
If research continues to confirm and uncover divergent
thinking and ideational correlates of creative lying, these
correlates may prove useful in screening applicants for
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 339
undercover work, for whom lying creatively can be a
matter of life and death. Moreover, another possible
correlate of creative lying may be emotional intelligence
(EI). Accordingly, future research might focus on
demonstrating a linkage between a measure of EI and
creative lying.
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340 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
APPENDIX: SOCIAL DILEMMAS
Scenario 1: You promised your significant other that you
would buy groceries after work but during the morning,
you decide you don’t want to go shopping. You know
that if you just tell him=her this truth, she=he will be
angry. How do you get out of going after the groceries
without making your mate angry? [avoid work]
Scenario 2: You do not like your sister’s new dress,
and you think that it makes her look fat, but she has just
asked you what you think of it. You know that she is
going to her 10th-year high school class reunion tonight
and wants to look her best in this new outfit. However,
you also know that she is very self-conscious. If you tell
her that another dress might make her look thinner, she
may not go at all because she will think she is too fat.
How do you get your sister to choose another outfit
without hurting her feelings? [spare feelings]
Scenario 3: You just learned that your grandmother
has terminal cancer and may soon die. This news has
made you cry. Your brother, who is very close to your
grandmother, notices that you have been crying and
asks why. You want to tell him the truth, but know that
he is taking the GRE tomorrow, which is crucial to his
future. If you tell him, he may be unable to concentrate
during the exam and do poorly. How do you answer
your brother? [keep others from harm]
Scenario 4: You are selling books door-to-door in a
small rural town to earn extra cash for the spring break
ski trip you count on taking with your friends. One more
big sale, and you’re going. One evening, you call on a
middle-aged couple. They are very rich and start telling
you about their children, who have now all grown and
left home. From what they are saying, it becomes appar-
ent that they are very religious people but are not inter-
ested in the books you are selling. You know that you
have to do something to make them buy or there will
be no Colorado trip for you. What do you say to change
their minds? [hurt=exploit]
Scenario 5: Your boss asks you personal questions
that you do not wish to answer, for instance, about
who you like to date and where you like to hang out at
night. However, you are afraid that if you are not plea-
sant or responsive, he=she will resent you and that you
may even be fired. What do you say to avoid answering
his=her questions? [protect self]
Scenario 6: You really do not care for your spouse’s
mother and consider her to be a redneck, troublemaker.
Although you love your spouse dearly, you do not know
if you can stand another minute around your mother-in-
law. As it is, you spend every holiday with her. How-
ever, you have pledged to yourself that you will not
spend this Easter with her. Knowing how close your
mate is with your mother-in-law, what do you tell your
spouse to make this happen? [avoid unpleasantness]
Scenario 7: Your friend and her mother refuse to
speak to each other over a minor disagreement that
happened about a year ago. Last week, you were in
Wal-Mart with your friend. Her mother happened to
be there too. When they saw each other, they walked
in different directions! It is nearly Christmas, and you
know that neither your friend nor her mother is happy
about their relationship status, but both are too proud.
You want them to make up and spend Christmas
together, but neither will apologize. What can you do
or say to bring them together? [bring people together]
Scenario 8: Your friend since childhood has recently
become your college roommate. She=he turns out to
be lazy, never cleaning up a mess. You both work all
day and pay your own share of the bills, but the house-
work is all on you. After a few months, you have had
enough. With another roommate that would share the
household chores, you would have time after studying
and working for a social life. You want to keep both
your lifelong friend and your sanity. What do you
say to your roommate to accomplish this? [avoid
unpleasantness]
Scenario 9: You have missed several English classes in
the past few weeks for no good reason but have a test
this Friday. You don’t really know anyone in the class
who would allow you to copy their notes. Knowing that
the professor is extremely intelligent and has zero toler-
ance for laziness or missing class without a good reason,
what do you tell him in order to get the missed class
notes or otherwise avoid failing the test? [get away with
wrongdoing]
Scenario 10: Your significant other came to see you at
work tonight. You really don’t like your job; so you
found it much more interesting to spend time
with him=her instead of doing your work. Now your
coworker has arrived to take over. You know that
your coworker will soon realize that you have not done
your share and have left it to her. Moreover, if you tell
the truth to her, she will pass it along to win brownie
points with your boss and get you fired. Even though
you hate your job, you really need the money. What
do you tell your coworker to pacify her and avoid
dismissal? [get away with wrongdoing]
Scenario 11: You are looking for an apartment for
college but are running short on time and options. The
semester begins next week. At the last minute, you find
an affordable apartment near campus. Unfortunately,
the manager tells you that tenants are not allowed to
have pets. You have a cat that you’ve owned for five
years and you cannot imagine parting with it. You
decide that what the manager doesn’t know won’t hurt
her, so you sign the lease and move into the apartment.
To your surprise and dismay, the manager stops buy
after a few weeks to tell you that your neighbors have
reported a power outage, and the electrician believes
CREATIVITY AND DECEPTION 341
that there may be a break in the line in your apartment.
The manager asks if she and the electrician may come in
to fix the problem. You know that if the manager sees
the cat, its toys, or the litter box, you’re out in the street.
How do you answer her? [get away with wrongdoing]
Scenerio 12: Your grandmother knits you a sweater
for Christmas that is ill-fitting and a terrible color for
you. The sweater looks great on your best friend, how-
ever, so you give it to him=her. One day you go to lunch
with him=her and he=she wears the sweater. As luck
would have it, your grandmother is dining in the same
restaurant. When she sees the sweater on your friend,
you see a look of hurt in her eyes and she leaves the res-
taurant. You feel terrible. Later on, knowing the truth
would hurt her even more, what do you tell your grand-
mother about the incident? [spare feelings]
Scenario 13: Your friend enthusiastically tells you
that she wants to join the school choir. Unfortunately,
she has a voice like an old trombone. Others who have
heard it usually are smirking or tittering. Recently after
she was done singing, you friend asked you for your opi-
nion on how she sounded. You really do not want to
hurt her feelings, but don’t want to give her false hope
either. What do you say to your friend? [spare feelings]
Scenario 14: You finally talk your dad into letting
you borrow his brand new Corvette for a Friday night
out with friends. He specifically warns you that there
is to be no eating, drinking, or smoking in his car. After
picking them up, you head to a club, and one of your
friends in the backseat lights up a cigarette without per-
mission. You whirl around to protest. At that moment,
your friend drops the cigarette, marring the leather seat.
Upon later inspection of the damage, you see that the
mark is noticeable, but you really cannot tell that a ciga-
rette was responsible. You aired out the car to get rid of
the smoke smell, but of course your dad notices the
mark right away. He asks you about what happened
to the interior. You know that if he finds out the truth,
he may never trust you again, and you really do not
want this. What do you tell your dad? [get away with
wrongdoing]
Scenario 15: Your cousin tells you about the guy she
has a date with tonight. The problem is that you already
know of this guy and have heard rumors that he was
accused of date rape a couple of times. You do not know
if the rumors are true, but you tell your cousin for her
own safety. Your cousin tells you that she does not want
to go through with the date. About that time the
doorbell rings. It is the young man in question. As she
runs to the bedroom to hide, your cousin tells you to
answer the door and make up an excuse. You know that
the young man has already seen your cousin’s car in the
drive and believes her to be home. What do you say after
you open the door? [keep others from harm]
Scenario 16: You are out with someone from class for
the first time. It is nothing serious, just a study date at a
nearby coffee shop. She=he excuses him=herself to go to
the restroom. While he is gone, someone walks by your
table rather briskly, and a few of your date’s papers
blow off the table. You reach to pick them up and rea-
lize that the pages are a letter from someone your date
has been seeing. You read part of the letter and learn
some shocking, personal information about him=her.
You hear the restroom door open and quickly put the
letter back where it was before. Your date does not
see the papers, but asks you why you look so shocked.
What do you say? [avoid unpleasantness]
Scenario 17: You see your ex-lover, who ended your
relationship, in a club. She=he asks you what you have
been doing since you last saw one another. Nothing
has actually changed in your life, other than you are
lonelier, but seeing your ex squirm over the fact that
he=she broke up with you would make your night. What
do you say to achieve this? [hurt=exploit]
Scenario 18: Your longtime enemy suddenly wants
to be nice to you. After a few days of wondering what
the catch is, he asks you in front of several classmates
if you will help him bring up his failing grade. You
have an A in the class, and you know he is aware of
this fact. He asks you very nicely, but you are on to
him. You do not want your classmates to think you
a horrible person, but at this point, you would like
nothing better than to see this guy fall right on his butt.
Believing that this person would remain your enemy if
not for his own personal gain, how do you answer?
[protect self]
342 WALCZYK, RUNCO, TRIPP, SMITH
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This research explored the relation between culture and creative potential in highly educated adults. It was hypothesized that culture would influence creative potential and achievement, largely through how individualistic (citizens serving themselves) or collectivistic (citizens serving society) the society of origin was. To this end, 55 American and 56 Chinese doctoral students were surveyed concerning their creative potential, their sense of individualism or collectivism, and their Graduate Record Examination quantitative subtest scores. Americans displayed significantly higher scores on a measure of creative potential than the Chinese. As expected, Americans showed greater individualism. Chinese were more collectivistic. Chinese had significantly higher skill mastery in the domain of mathematics. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings for understanding cultural differences in creativity are considered.
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Participants discussed paintings they liked and disliked with artists who were or were not personally invested in them. Participants were urged to be honest or polite or were given no special instructions. There were no conditions under which the artists received totally honest feedback about the paintings they cared about. As predicted by the defensibility postulate, participants stonewalled, amassed misleading evidence, and conveyed positive evaluations by implication. They also told some outright lies. But the participants also communicated clearly their relative degrees of liking for the different special paintings. The results provide new answers to the question of why beliefs about other people's appraisals do not always correspond well with their actual appraisals.
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In 2 diary studies, 77 undergraduates and 70 community members recorded their social interactions and lies for a week. Because lying violates the openness and authenticity that people value in their close relationships, we predicted (and found) that participants would tell fewer lies per social interaction to the people to whom they felt closer and would feel more uncomfortable when they did lie to those people. Because altruistic lies can communicate caring, we also predicted (and found) that relatively more of the lies told to best friends and friends would be altruistic than self-serving, whereas the reverse would be true of lies told to acquaintances and strangers. Also consistent with predictions, lies told to closer partners were more often discovered.
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This study examined a model of the relative mitigating effects of three types of explanations on the negative reactions of subjects who had been told that they had been deceived. Explanations were found to mitigate differentially feelings of disapproval, injustice, punitiveness, and unforgiveness, depending on the type of explanation, the severity of the outcome the subjects experienced, how adequate they judged the explanation to be, and how honest they felt the explainer was. The perceived adequacy of the explanation was more important in mitigating negative reactions than the type of explanation, although punitiveness was affected, more than the other negative reactions, by the type of explanation and was moderated more by the outcomes of greater severity. The study shows that whether explanations have a mitigating effect on negative reactions depends on more than the characteristics of the explanations and the explainer, which have been the focus of previous research.