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Although creativity is often seen as an aspect of self-fulfillment, it is important to recognize its social effects. The traditional view is that these should be beneficial, creativity thus being benevolent. However, those who wish to do deliberate harm to others can also display creativity, in this case malevolent creativity. This is governed by the same principles as benevolent creativity, differing only in its intended purpose. Like any creativity, malevolent creativity can be examined through its products. Concepts from research on creative products provide important insights into the activities of terrorists and criminals, especially the idea of competing solutions. The key ideas in malevolent creativity are summarized in 11 principles; recognizing these helps in developing more effective means for counteracting terrorism.
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Malevolent Creativity: A Functional Model of Creativity
in Terrorism and Crime
David H. Cropley
University of South Australia
James C. Kaufman
California State University at San Bernardino
Arthur J. Cropley
University of Hamburg
Although creativity is often seen as an aspect of self-fulfillment, it is important to recog-
nize its social effects. The traditional view is that these should be beneficial, creativity
thus being benevolent. However, those who wish to do deliberate harm to others can
also display creativity, in this case malevolent creativity. This is governed by the same
principles as benevolent creativity, differing only in its intended purpose. Like any crea-
tivity, malevolent creativity can be examined through its products. Concepts from
research on creative products provide important insights into the activities of terrorists
and criminals, especially the idea of competing solutions. The key ideas in malevolent
creativity are summarized in 11 principles; recognizing these helps in developing more
effective means for counteracting terrorism.
Creativity has sometimes been treated as a form of
self-expression that involves personal dignity, expression
of one’s inner being, self -actualization, and the like (e.g.,
Maslow, 1973; May, 1976; Rogers, 1961). Although it
may not have been the intention of the writers just
mentioned, creativity theory has thus been exposed to
the risk of ‘‘glorification of individuals’’ (Boden, 1994,
p. 4), and even as somehow above social constructs such
as good or bad. However, from almost the beginning of
the modern era, creativity was seen as involving the
‘‘four Ps’’ (e.g., Rhodes, 1961, pp. 305–310): not just
person, process, and product, but—of particular impor-
tance for this article—‘‘press’’ (i.e., the social context).
The social dimension can scarcely be examined with-
out reference to another of these Ps—products. These
constitute, as it were, the public face of creativity.
Guilford himself (e.g., 1950) referred to the need for
creativity to lead to something useful. Other early wri-
ters also emphasized the necessity of including products
in discussions of creativity (e.g., Clifford, 1958; Gordon,
1961; Rossman, 1931). More recently, the emphasis on
creative products was put with pa rticular vigor by Bailin
(1988): ‘‘The only coherent way in which to view creati-
vity is in terms of the production of valuable products’’
(p. 5). The idea of product should be understood in a
broad way: Products are often tangible, and may take
the form of works of art, musical compositions, or
written documents; or of machines, buildings, or other
physical structures such as bridges and the like. They
can also be intangible, although relatively specific, such
as plans and strategies in busines s, manufacturing,
government, and other less frequently discussed areas
(see below). Finally, they can consist of more general
thoughts or ideas—systems for conceptualizing the
world—as in philosophy, mathematics, or, indeed, all
reflective disciplines, but also in religion, morals, and
The authors would like to thank Roja Dilmore-Rios for editorial
assistance and Scott Barry Kaufman for suggestions to an earlier draft.
Address correspondence to David H. Cropley, Building F, Mawson
Lakes Campus, University of South Australia, SA 5095, Australia.
Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1040-0419 print=1532-6934 online
DOI: 10.1080/10400410802059424
From the social point of view, creative products are
not the personal playthings of aesthetes and intellectuals
seeking to express their individuality and realize them-
selves, but are helpful reactions to practical problems
in the world. In other words, they aim at providing
socially useful solutions to problems. How ever, as is
discussed in detail below, usefulness on its own is not
enough: The second vital element of creativity is, of
course, novelty, without which a product would not be
creative, even though it might be valuable. Bruner
(1962, p. 1) summ arized the two basic criteria of creativ-
ity in a psychological way: A creative product must
cause effective surprise in beholders. Although interest
in creativity as a source of useful, novel solutions to pro-
blems of society is not new, it has been given increased
emphasis in some modern discussions (e.g., Higgins,
1994; Walberg & Stariha, 1992). Socially useful creative
products are seen as necessary to make the nation
prosperous, stable, and—of particular interest for this
To be socially useful , creativity would obviously have
to benefit the system into which it is introduced (King,
1992). This idea is by no means new, nor is it confined
to aesthetic creativity. For instance, both Bacon and
Descartes, two of the founders of modern science who
were writing approximately 350 years ago, saw scientific
creativity as involving the harnessing of the forces of
nature for the betterment of the human condition. Thus,
traditional studies of creativity focus on what can be
called benevolent creativity. In general, this is creativity
directed towards what most civilized people would
regard as appropriate, ethical, or desirable pur poses,
whether the field is artistic=aesthetic (the prod uction
of art, music and poetry, for example), business (the
provision of goods or services in exchange for payment),
or engineering and design (the development of
tangible objects for the benefit of society). In a newer
and more wide-ranging discussion, Sternberg (2003)
argued that creativity (along with intelligence) must be
balanced or tempered by wisdom, and assumed that cre-
ative people’s wisdom will ensure that their creativity
serves the common good. There have been several
papers that have proposed a moral creativity (Gruber,
1993; Runco, 1993; Runco & Nemiro, 2003; Schwebel,
However, some studies of morality and creativity have
indicated that the two may not be as closely related as
would be ideal. Andreani and Pagnin (1993) found that
creatively gifted high school students gave more original
solutions to moral questions and puzzles. It was the less
gifted students who were more likely to endorse
altruistic values. Rappoport and Kren (1993) discussed
amoral altruists—people who saved Jews from the
Holocaust yet otherwise showed poor moral behavior.
Thus, there is no automatic link between creativity
and doing good.
In fact, it is clear that creat ivity can have a ‘‘dark
side’’ (McLaren, 1993, p. 139). At the very least, its ben-
evolence can be ambiguous. Clark and James (1999)
gave a number of examples of ‘‘negative creativity’’
(p. 311) in organizational settings. These included find-
ing effectively novel ways of stealing from a company
or of avoiding having to do unpleasant or demanding
work at the expense of others . There is obviously a bene-
fit for the person avoiding the unpleasant work, but the
person who has to do it instead will not enjoy much
benefit from the creativity. Such negative creativity,
however, need not have actual destructive intent: People
stealing from a company may not wish to harm the
company, but merely to benefi t themselves—indeed,
they may have a vested interest in seeing the company
prosper. It is even the case that negative creativity may
arise from well-intentioned creativity or creativity that
really is beneficial to the common good: For instance,
the discoveries of Pasteur and Jenner laid the foun-
dation for germ warfare.
In this article, however, we are concerned with
another aspect of the dark side—creativity that is de lib-
erately plan ned to damage others. Such creativity is
deemed necessary by some society, group, or individual
to fulfill goals they regard as desirable, but has serious
negative consequences for some other group, these nega-
tive consequences being fully intended by the first group.
We call this mal evolent creativity. Such creativity is fre-
quently seen in time of war. There are many examples
from the history of warfare where the deliberate appli-
cation of creativi ty in order to harm other people has
played an important role in ensuring the success of
one of the protagonists, both through technological
innovation (for e xample, the widespread introduction
of radar into British convoy escorts in 1942–1943;
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005c), and also through
innovative tactics and strategies (for example, the devel-
opment of the practice of ‘‘breaking the line’’ used by
the Royal Navy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries;
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005a). Although regarded as
highly beneficial by the British, these two pieces
of military creativity would have been seen as male-
volent by the German Navy and Franco-Spanish fleet,
Thus, benefit is a subjective notion. One person’s
benefit may be another’s ruin. This idea of subjective
benevolence, where creativity may benefit one group
but not another, makes it possible to apply concepts
from creativity to discussing fields of activity that are
not usually analyzed in terms of creativity, for instance
crime and terrorism. Where criminals and terrorists
produce surprising products (in the broad sense of
product outlined above) that are effective in achieving
their purposes, they may be said to have displayed
creativity, despite the fact that the products do not bene-
fit our common good. Referring to Al Qaeda, Benjamin
and Simon (2002) made this point succinctly: ‘‘They are
genuinely creative, and their ingenuity and desir e to
inflict massive casualties will continue to drive them’’
(p. 400).
Creativity and Crime
One area where malevolent creativity might be expected
to occur is crime. Possible links between creativity and
crime can be looked at in at least three ways. Criminality
may sometimes be a kind of accidental by-product of
creativity: Because creativity requires deviating from
the conventional, there is a permanent tension between
being creative and producing products that go too far,
sometimes to the point of breaking the law (whether
or not other societies or later generations woul d approve
of the law in question). The actions of artists who violate
social taboos for artistic purposes are an example.
Brower (1994, 1999) has look ed in detail at this
aspect of creativity and crime. Close to this is the idea
that personality traits such as recklessness or unconven-
tionality, or subclinical patterns of personal adjustment
(Schuldberg, 2001) may encourage characteristics that
are favorable for creativity (e.g., willingness to break
rules), and these traits may lead to behavior in aspects
of life (other than producing creative products) that is
adjudged to be criminal in the society in question at
the particular time. An example would be Oscar Wilde’s
imprisonment for homosexuality. However, links of
these kinds are not the focus of this article, because
the creativity does not have infringing against the law
as its principal purpose.
A second kind of link between creativity and crime is
seen when creative individuals break the law, not as part
of their creativity or as a direct result of their creativity
but, so to speak, on the side. A creative individu al who
committed a murder or robbed a bank would be an
obvious example. The fact that the murderer was highly
creative might help him or her to plan and carry out the
crime in a novel way, but by and large the fact that the
murderer was creative would be coincidental. Once
again, despite the fact that it may be very interesting,
this is not the constellation that we have in mind for
the purposes of this article.
Of interest to us here is the case of the criminal indi-
vidual who deliberately generates novelty in order to be
a better criminal: A criminal intent is at the core of the
person’s motivation, and creativity is deliberately and
consciously employed as an instrument for achieving
illegal ends. Fortunately, the evidence is that most
criminals are not particularly novel or innovative.
Eisenman (1999) showed that prisoners rated by
guards and other inmates as creative typically generated
little or no effective novelty, but rather showed lack of
inhibitions and low levels of social conformity—what
Cattell and Butcher (1968) called ‘‘pseudo-creativity’’
(p. 217). As a result, anticrime measures are reasonably
successful, even without high levels of creativity.
Creativity and Competition
Malevolent creativity involves effective novelty that is
beneficial to one side in some conflict of interests,
but is bad for the other. Some ideas from business
creativity offer insights into understanding this state
of affairs. In a business context, a creative solution
offers the potential to capture, at least for a short time,
a particular market. The more creative a product, the
less likely it is that competitors will have anticipated
it. It is self-evident that a business entering a market
with a product that has never been seen before will,
at least initially, have no competition. A less creative
product, for example one that is simply an incremental
improvement on an existing product, will not exhibit
the same degree of revolutionary impact. Competitors
will be quick to respond with their own incremental
improvements. In sim ple terms, creative products (or,
more generally, creative solutions) are harder to antici-
pate than routine (noncreative) solutions. For this rea-
son, it is hard to compete against a truly creative,
revolutionary product. This characteristic of creativity
(gaining a competitive edge on the opposition), like
the ability to exhibit creativity itself, is open to all sides
in a competitive environment.
Creativity and Terrorism
In the same way that businesses see creativity as a means
for gaining a competitive edge—one company’s creative
product gives it an advantage over competitors until
those competitors, in turn, generate a creative product
of their own—law enforcement in general, and the war
on terror in particular, can be seen as a dynamic struggle
between competitors. Instead of the products being, for
example, consumer goods, they are the subway gas
attack, the airport metal detector, the aircraft hijacking,
and the facial recognition system. In the context of crimi-
nal activity more generally, these products include, for
example, bank robberies, alarm systems, car theft, and
locks. Although the business imperative may be
economic survival, the imperatives for ourside in the war
on terror and law enforcement are, respectively, the sur-
vival of a way of life and the survival of ordered
societies. Our position is that creativity plays as vital a role
in the competition between terrorist and counterterrorist
or criminal and police as it does in the contest between
rival businesses.
A creative act of terror or crime is as hard to antici-
pate, and therefore to defend against or to coun teract, as
is a creative counterterrorist or law enforcement weapon
or process. The events of September 11, 2001, stand as
testament to this fact. If the terrorist acts of 9=11 had
notbeen novel, it stands to reason that they would have
been anticipated. If they had been anticipated, in other
words if the mode of attack had been known in advance,
successful action would , or at least could, have been
taken to prevent them. There is also no doubt that the
terrorist acts in question were highly successful (regard-
less of whether we agree with what was done), so that it
must be conceded that they were both surprising and
also effective. In other words, the attacks of 9=11 must
be regarded as highly creative. How can we conceptua-
lize such creativity?
We have argued that, repugnant as the idea may be,
terrorists and criminals can use c reativity to develop
effective, surprising products that give them an
advantage over their opposition. Fortunately, as we
have discus sed, counterterrorist and law enforcement
agencies can also develop creative products of their
own to cope with the efforts of terrorists and criminals.
What is needed now is an understanding of the nature of
creativity in effective, surprising products, to work out
how to deal with malevolent creativity.
Effective Novelty
The model of creative products that we now describe is
founded on the concept of creativity in an engineering
setting. This has been termed functional creativity
(Cropley & Cropley, 2005). This model is based on the
now widespread view summarized by O’Quin and
Besemer (1999) that for a product to be regarded as
creative it must possess not only novelty but also
relevance and effectiveness. In other words, a creative
product must be not only original and surprising
(novel); it must also satisfy the need for which it was
created. Without relevance and effectiveness, the pro-
duct is merely aesthetic. This is not to say that aesthetic
products are, by nature, ineffective. Instead, we argue
that without effectiveness, a product cannot be anything
other than aesthetic. Thus, a bridge only possesses
functional creativity if, in addition to being original
and surprising (novel), it can also allow vehicles to cross
a river successfully (relevance and effectiveness).
Higher Order Characteristics of Functional Creativity
In additio n to the prerequisite characteristics described
in the last section, creative solutions may also exhibit
additional properties. In an early study, Taylor (1975)
emphasized generation, reformulation, originality, rel-
evancy, hedonics, complexity, and condensation. The
criteria of hedonics, complexity, and condensation
raise an interesting issue: They are reminiscent of
Jackson and Messick’s (1965) very early distinction
between external criteria of the effectiveness of a
novel product (i.e., does it work?) and internal criteria
(i.e., do its elem ents fit together in a pleasing way?).
Taylor thus added what are, to some extent, aesthetic
More recently, Besemer and O’Quin (1999) identified
three dimensions of a creative product: novelty (the pro-
duct is original, surprising and germinal), resolution (the
product is valuable, logical, useful, and understandable),
and elaboration and synthesis (the product is organic,
elegant, complex, and well-crafted). Again, the ideas of
internal logic, understandability, and well-craftedness
are raised. We call this elegance. Good solutions look
like good solutions. Wernher von Braun, architect of
the Saturn V moon rockets, is credited with the aphor-
ism ‘‘the eye is a fine architect, believe it,’’ which neatly
captures the notion of elegance.
Generalizability, by contrast, is an expression of the
broad applicability of a product. It refers to the degree
to which a product not only solves the current problem,
but also suggests solutions to other problems, shows
how to go about finding solutions to other problems
(germinality), or raises new problems that had not pre-
viously been noticed (seminality). An elegant solution
solves the present problem in a pleasing way, a general-
izable solution leads on to other uses above and beyond
the present problem, even though they may not, at first,
be obvious.
The order of the criteria of functional creativity is not
random. A functional solution must always do what it
was supposed to do (i.e., be effective), before other cri-
teria can be consider ed. A bridge, for instance, must
get traffic across a river and must not fall down, before
any discussion of novelty, elegance, and generalizability
can take place. An example of a solution that was novel
and elegant was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the
northwest United States.
Unfortunately, it collapsed and, thus, although it was
widely regarded as a beautiful design, it was not func-
tionally creative. Probably very few people would argue
that this was a good bridge, and that others should be
like it. This example makes it obvious that novelty alone
is not sufficient in functional products (see below), yet
elegance and generalizability are also insufficient on
their own.
Functional Creativity and Competition
The functional creativity model operates as a hierarchy.
Relevance and effectiveness, on the one hand, and
novelty, on the other, are necessary prerequisites for a
product or solution to be regarded as creative. Elegance
and generalizability are only applicable when the first
two characteristics are present in a solution. Further-
more, there is a dynamic relationship between these four
characteristics. Put differently, novelty adds value to a
solution that is effective. The ad dition of elegance to a
solution that is effective and novel adds even more
value, and at the highest level, the addition of general iz-
ability to a solution that is effective, novel and elegant
adds further overall value.
Cropley and Cropley (2005) went on to suggest that
in a competitive situation, where, for example, two busi-
nesses are competing in the same market, greater crea-
tivity in one product can actually reduce the
effectiveness of a competing product. This is illustrated
with the example of the British Harrier V=STOL (Verti-
cal and=or Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft in
competition with Argentinean supersonic jets (the
French Mirage and the American F-102 Dagger) during
the Falklands War of 1982. The novel capabilities of the
Harrier (specifically the technique known as VIFFing,
or, vectoring in forward flight) resulted in tactical sur-
prise that enhanced its effectiveness in air-to-air combat
and, it is argued, actually subtracted value from the
Argentinean aircraft, which, had they been faced with
a different opponent, may well have proved to be
extremely effective. Thus, effective novelty in one side’s
products may cancel out the effective novelty of the
other side’s.
Functional Creativity and Crime and Terrorism
In crime, criminals may adopt a standard method of
operations (a modus operandi). In our terms, by doing
this they deny themselves the advantages in their compe-
tition with law enforcement agencies yielded by gener-
ation of novelty. Indeed, advances in computers and
statistical techniques have allowed international data-
bases to be compiled with modus operandi automati-
cally scored for similarity (Yokota & Watanabe, 2002).
Presumably, the compensation for criminals is that their
modus operandi makes them very good at what they do,
and helps them to feel familiar, perhaps even at ease, in
situations that less experienced people would find fright-
ening. In effect, they may well find themselves in the
same position as any expert: Once they have perfected
a set of skills and become familiar with and comfortable
in a domain in its existing form, they actually have a
vested interest in things remaining the same. As Gardner
(1993) pointed out, there may be ‘‘tension between
creativity and expertise’ ’ (p. 52). To achieve surprise,
criminals must be prepared to abandon the tried and
trusted way (their modus operandi) and return to the
status of beginners (Root-Bernstein, 1989).
Criminal profiling is a rapidly growing area that
already incorporates ideas of functional creativity. For
example, the routine activity theory of criminal profiling
studies the relationship between possible criminals,
possible victims, and the lack of an appropriate police
presence. If there is the right level of all three (or per-
haps we should say the ‘‘wrong’’ level), a crime will be
more likely to occur (Beauregard, Proulx, & Rossmo,
2005; Cohen & Felson, 1979). The criminal product
has already been copiously analyzed, and based on these
patterns, anticrime forces can work to combat crime.
However, if a criminal were familiar with the routine
activity theory and specifically generated novelty by
(for example) choosing unpredictable victims or selected
areas where there was already an established police pres-
ence, then the criminal could use novelty to better his or
her odds of being successful.
Recent events suggest, unfortunately, that this is
also true in the case of terrorism. Thus, the model of
functional creativity should be applied to the study of
terrorism, as well as to the development of effective coun-
terterrorist solutions. How does the functional model of
creativity help to combat terrorism? It is axiomatic that
terrorists will continue to develop creative solutions to
their particular problem—namely, how to achieve ‘‘the
systematic use of violence to create a general climate of
fear in a population and thereby to bring about a parti-
cular political objective’’ (Encyclopedia Britannica,
2005b). Thus, in order to combat terrorism successfully,
counterterrorist agencies must see their activities in the
context of competing functional creativity. This applies
to not only counterterrorist products that are physical,
engineered products (e.g. metal-detectors) but also to
counterterrorist systems, services, and processes. The con-
cept of functional creativity dictates that counterterrorist
agencies must, as a minimum, continuously generate effec-
tive novelty in order to stay one step ahead of the terrorist
competitor. Furthermore, by understanding the terrorist
product in terms of the characteristics of functional crea-
tivity, it is possible to tailor counterterrorist solutions to
maximize their effectiveness and even to subtract value
from the terrorist products.
The Decline of Novel ty
There is one problem, however, that all creative solu-
tions suffer from—decay. It is self-evident that, from
the moment a product is made public, its novelty begins
to decline as it becomes less surprising. The longer a
product is exposed to scrutiny, the less novel it will
become. Because novelty is a prerequisite for functional
creativity, any decline in novelty will result in a decline
in the creativity of the solution. The solution will then
lose the value that was added to it by its novelty, and
may well lose its ability to subtract effectiveness from
competing solutions. Thus, to maintain a high level of
functional creativity over time requires either the con-
tinuous generation and regeneration of effective novelty,
or some other means for preserving the surprise value of
an existing product.
The acts of terror in New York and Washington, DC
on September 11, 2001, are a stark example of not only
the advantages of a creative solution, but also of the
concept of novelty decay. The idea of hijacking a plane
and crashing it into a buildi ng was extremely surprising
(novel) and very effective in the first minutes of the
attack. However, its novelty decayed so much when
the passenge rs on United Airlines Flight 93 heard about
the morning’s events that they were ab le to generate
their own competing response, which was, in its turn,
surprising to the terrorists on their plane. It competed
so well against the terrorist product that the passengers
succeeded in foiling the terrorists’ main aim; the passen-
gers’ solution subtracted much of the value of the
oppositions’. In that case, the half-life of the novelty
of using passenger aircraft as suicide bombs was a
matter of minutes.
We have already used an analogy from radioac-
tivity—half-life. In Figure 1 we continue to use this ana-
logy, speculating that the decay function for novelty,
like radioactivity, will be exponential. Figure 1 shows
a graph of the hypothesized exponential decay of the
novelty of the 9=11 mode of attack over time. Although
the exact shape of the graph is unknown at present and
will need to be determined by appropriate research, it is
possible to speculate about certain points on the graph.
The Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks can
be assumed to have had the maximum possible novelty.
They were original and surprising, and were clearly not
anticipated. The attack that resulted in the aircraft
crashing in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, did not
have the same level of novelty. We know that passengers
on that flight were aware of the other attacks and that
they took some action against the terrorists. Had they
not done so, the terrorists would not only have taken
over the plane (which they successfully did), but would
have crashed it where they chose. Thus, this attack
achieved only partial success. One of the two goals
(hijack the aircraft) was achieved; the other (crash it at
a selected target) was not. For this reason, we have
shown this attack’s novelty as having degraded to
50% (compared to the other attacks).
It is also reasonable to assume that if the passengers
on the unsuccessful flight (from the point of view of the
terrorists) had not heard about the other attacks, they
would not have taken any action. Had that situation
occurred, the novelty of the fourth attack would have
remained at, or close to, 100%, thus producing a differ-
ent decay function. The dotted line in Figure 1 specu-
lates on the shape of the graph had the decay of
novelty through exposure of the product been slower
than actually occurred. The greater the exposure of the
product, the more rapidly its novelty decays.
For an example from the area of ordinary crime,
consider the 2002 sniper murders around Washington,
DC. John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo murdered
10 people in attacks that captured worldwide attention.
The first murders took the country by surprise; most
past sniper attacks (such as those by Charles Whitman)
were one-time events. The 2002 murders, however, were
multiple shootings taking place at different locations. In
addition, the victims uncommonly encompassed all
ethnicities and came from a wide age range. Thus,
Muhammad and Malvo adopted a novel method of
attack that, from their point of view, initially proved
highly effective. However, they did not change their
modus operandi, so that the surprise effect of their
attacks decayed, and people were able to adopt counter-
measures, such as being more guarded and alert.
Eventually, the two snipers were caught, as the surprise
effect dropped to a lower and lower level.
One measure of the creativity (and effectiveness) of
police and government officials is to see if they can take
advantage of a decline in novelty. For exampl e, the
recent disaster in New Orleans following Hurricane
Katrina and its aftermath has been particularly devas-
tating because most levels of government were caught
unprepared. Ideally, the American government can
learn from this tragedy and apply functional creativity
FIGURE 1 The decay of novelty over time: September 11.
in their future responses. A less creative response—one
that focuses only on problem solving—would be limited
to reinforcing levees and hurricane response teams. A
more creative response might be to test out multiple
disaster scenarios (such as a major earthquake in
California) so that the country would be better prepared
for a multitude of possible disasters.
Decay of Effectiveness
Figure 1 dealt with decay in surprisingness (novelty).
Figure 2 now examines the hypothetical behavior of a
solution’s effectiveness over time.
Continuing to use the 9=11 example, it is clear that,
initially, the effectiveness of the Pentagon and World
Trade Center attacks was at, or near, 100%.Thoseair-
craft were successfully hijacked, and successfully crashed
into major structures. The Pennsylvania attack, however,
fulfilled only some of its goals: Although the terrorists
succeeded in taking control of that plane, it did not reach
its intended target. The decay of effectiveness that
occurred over time (during which passengers on the Uni-
ted Airlines Flight 93 learned about the earlier attacks)
reduced the effectiveness of the terrorists’ creative solution
to their problem (causing maximum destruction),
although insufficient time passed for the solution to be
rendered completely ineffectual, which would have
occurred, for instance, had authorities on the ground
had time to work out a way for the passengers to regain
control of the aircraft. Once again, it is possible to fix
two points on the graph, the time point t
(when the
attack was highly effective) and t
(when it was becoming
less effective, so that its functional creativity had decayed
to some extent). It is also reasonable to speculate on other
possible levels of effectiveness that might be observed as
the solution’s effect decayed (i.e., the nature of the terror-
ists’ solution became more apparent to their opponents,
who were then able to take countermeasures), in order
to construct the curve shown in Figure 2.
The Interaction of Novelty and Effectiveness Decay
These graphs suggest that not only do novelty and effec-
tiveness decay over time, but also that the two criteria of
functional creativity are linked together in a dynamic
way. If a solution’s novelty did not decay (for instance
because it was not de tected), its effectiveness would be
more likely to remain high. It is also interest ing to note
that the effectiveness of the terrorist attack was reduced
to an estimated 50% by a counterterrorist solution that,
itself, possessed some degree of novelty and effectiveness
(the passengers’ counterattack). This clearly surprised
the terrorists—otherwise they would not have allowed
it to disrupt their plans. The passengers’ counterattack
also displayed a certain elegance (for instance, it seems
somehow fitting that the immediate victims should frus-
trate the main goal of their attackers, even if the passen-
gers’ main motivation was probably survival, rather
than frustrating the terrorists). Thus, the elegant effec-
tive novelty of the passengers’ counterattack subtracted
substantial value from the terrorists’ solution.
If the novelty of the terrorists’ product had decayed
rapidly but there had been no competing solution (for
instance because the passengers were too disorganized
or dispirited to mount their counter-attack, or because
their action had been full y anticipated by the terrorists
and thus displayed no novelty), the effectiveness of the
terrorists’ ‘‘product’’ would have had the potential to
remain high. Thus, novelty decay may be a prerequisite
for effectiveness decay in most cases, but may not be suf-
ficient on its own to guarantee effectiveness decay. The
curve shown with a dotted line in Figure 2 speculates
on the shape of the graph in the case where the compe-
tition (from the point of view of the terrorists) is weak.
In the extreme case (no competition), the effectiveness
would have remained at, or close to, 100% regardless
of the decay of novelty.
Figures 1 and 2 are not based on exact data, and are
intended only to suggest how what was observed on
September 11, 2001, might be analyzed in terms of general
principles. Nonetheless, they provide a starting point for
working out what is to be done to combat terrorism. It
is worth noting here that we are focusing on frustrating
murderous attacks; we do not, for instance, discuss issues
such as eliminating the social, economic, and political
conditions that lead people to carry out such attacks.
Understanding the Effects of Terrorism Over Time
Although this article is not attempting to predict future
behaviors, it is possible to speculate on the time intervals
FIGURE 2 The decay of effectiveness with time: September 11.
for the example of the September 11 attacks. It is clear
that within minutes of the first attack, passengers were
aware that an unusual pattern of hijackings was taking
place, and were no longer surprised by the attack on
United Airlines Flight 93. This reduction in the novelty
of the method during the minutes between t
and t
enabled passengers to begin to formulate a counterter-
rorist solut ion that reduced the effectiveness of the
terrorist attack. In other words, they began to develop
a competing solution. Had the passengers on Flight 93
been unaware of the other attacks, it is reasonable to
conclude that the novelty, and therefore the effective-
ness, of the terrorists’ method would have remained
higher for longer, and suggested other possible solu-
tions, such as training passengers to resist hijacks, thus
displaying generalizability.
We may also speculate that, in the days following the
attacks, further wide exposure of the method, as well as
increasing counterterrorist acti vities, meant that the
novelty and effectiveness of the method declined
through a phase where further unsuccessful attempts
might have been made (the days between t
and t
), until
a point was reached where exposure and counterterrorist
solutions reduced the method’s effectiveness to no more
than a lingering psychological effect on society (t
However, the importance of this long-term, primarily
psychological effect should not be underestimated.
Indeed, in some cases, such as the Bali bombings on
October 12, 2002, and October 1, 2005, or the London
bombings in July 2005, this lingering effect may be the
main goal of the terrorism, for instance because of its
potential to damage a country’s economy by frightening
off tourists or to cause an atmosphere of suspicion and
intolerance that is favorable for recruiting new terror-
ists. It may be possible to anchor the point t
, for
instance in the case of 9=11, by examining the impact
of the attacks on patterns of air travel. The time that
elapsed before the number of people traveling to Bali
from Australia after the October 12, 2002, terrorist
attack returned to earlier levels was several months, sug-
gesting that the interval t
is of the order of months.
Designing Proactive Counterterrorist Solutions
Terrorists typically want their acts to become well
known as quickly as possible. Thus, the problem for
counterterrorists of achieving novelty decay may be
secondary to that of causing effectiveness decay. The
preceding examples have all assumed that counter-
terrorist efforts are reactive, and do not swing into action
until after the terrorists have achieved their first effective
surprise, thus giving the terrorists, as a gift, the period
! t
, when they can do maximum harm. It is important
to examine the possibility of proactive counterterrorist
solutions. The proactive solution is one that is in place
before the terrorist act takes place. Such competing
solutions are in a position to subtract value from the
terrorist solution as soon as it becomes known.
In the case of the September 11 attacks, what would
the outcome have been had a counterterrorist solution
already been in place? If, for example, each aircraft
had carried armed guards on board, what would have
happened? It is reasonab le to assume that an attempt
to hijack the planes would still have taken place. The
decay of novelty would, most likely, have followed a
similar path; however, the effectiveness of the terrorist
attacks would almost certainly have decreased much
more steeply. In other words, once guards were expect-
ing an attack, it is likely that the late r attacks would
have been less effective. A key in this example is that
the initial effectiveness of the terrorist attack method
is likely to have remained high. In other words, at least
one of the attacks (probably the first chronologic ally)
would still have succeeded.
A more desirable situation would be to have in place
a proactive solution that does not allow the terro rist
method to reach 100% effectiveness under any circum-
stances. It is difficult to speculate what this could have
been on September 11, 2001. It is possible, however, to
use the functional model of creativity to identify the
kinds of characteristics that a proactive solution would
need to possess. A truly proactive counterterrorist
solution that is able to preempt a terrorist attack and
prevent it achieving 100% effectiveness must exhibit
the following characteristics:
1. It must be relevant and effective. It must be able to
achieve its desired objective. It must, therefore, have
a well-defined goal.
2. It must be novel. It must be original, surprising, or
unexpected. This requirement may dictate a high
level of secrecy, something that represents a depar-
ture from the traditional concept of deterrence that
grew out of the Cold War (nuclear) defense policy.
It would, thus, require a fundamental change in the
mindset of policy makers. Secrecy is also contrary
to the social=political ideal of openness that is now
widely accepted, and seems to raise the specter of
secret agencies and covert operations. How the speed
of counterterrorist novelty decay can be reduced
while preserving the present open value system needs
to be worked out.
3. It must guard against premature exposure that
reduces this novelty. Many current methods of coun-
terterrorism inadvertently advertise themselves. This
contributes to the decay of their novelty and effec-
tiveness. Members of the public know, for example,
that it is hard to get a knife on a plane. Smart,
creative terrorists will react accordingly and look
for creative solutions that subtract value from the
counterterrorism measure. The proactive counterter-
rorist solution must surprise the terrorists.
4. Ideally it will be elegant. It must make sense and be
fully worked out and well engineered. It should not
only work (effectiveness), but also be beautiful or
polished. This may well mean that it is expensive to
develop. A Heath-Robinson machine is an example
of a solution that is effective but not elegant. The
Tacoma Narrows Bridge (see above) is an example
of a solution that was elegant, but not effective.
5. Ideally, it will be generalizable. It must be adaptable.
The best solutions are those that are flexible and can
solve problems that have not yet been foreseen. A
hammer with a claw to remove bent nails has
foreseen the eventuality that something undesirable
may happen. The claw hammer is more adaptable
than a plain hammer. This characteristic is also the
hardest to build into a solution.
Because terrorists are actively seeking new solutions
to their problems, the terrorist=c ounterterrorist problem
space is dynamic. As soon as one problem has been
solved, or one novel solution created, counterterror
organizations must begin working on the next solution,
just as we now know terrorists do. The lifecycle of ter-
rorist and cou nterterrorist solutions is, perhaps, even
shorter than the noto riously rapid product lifecycles in
software and high technology. The proactive counterter-
rorist organization will borrow extensively from other
industries where rapid development is required and
defenses against novelty decay and effectiveness decay
are already well developed. Many of these solutions
can already be seen in sophisticated anticrime proce-
dures. Professional profilers use infor mation about past
crimes and criminals to prevent future crimes and to
identify and apprehend current criminals. The same
basic procedures can be used for such disparate crimes
as arson, theft, and rape (e.g., Kocsis & Irwin, 1997).
The concept of functional creativity also sheds light on
how to evaluate the effe ctiveness of counterterrorism
solutions. M any approaches to counterterrorism focus
only on problem-solving—they assume a well-defined,
conventional problem and attempt to solve that.
Creative problem-finding reexamines the nature of the
problem and asks whether the right problem is being
addressed (Runco & Nemiro, 1994; Runco, Nemiro, &
Walberg, 1998). This is akin to the difference between
verification and validation in engineering. Verification
asks, ‘‘Are we solving the problem right?’’ whereas
validation asks, ‘‘Are we solving the right problem?’’
Problem Finding
In recent times, creativity researchers have recognized
that understanding the real core of the problem is an
important element in finding creative solutions (e.g.,
Jay & Perkins, 1997), and Mumford, Baughman, Threl-
fall, Supinksi, and Costanza (1996) identified ‘‘problem
construction’’ (p. 63) as one of the main processes
involved in creative problem-solving. Thus, part of the
process of generating effective solutions is to ensure that
the right problem is being addressed. This idea is by no
means new. It was recognized early in practical discus-
sions of developing novel solution s: Gordon (1961),
for instance, emphasized stating the essential core of
the problem that is to be solved as the first step in
If a creative problem-finding approach is taken, in
conjunction with the model of functional creativity, it
is possible to see terrorist problems in a new light. For
example, is the problem of terrorists hijacking passenger
aircraft really one of preventing them from getting guns
onto the aircraft? Or is it really a problem of negating
the danger posed by a terrorist who has succeeded in
getting a gun onto an aircraft? The first definition of
the problem focuses atte ntion on things like metal detec-
tors, and security screening; the latter might focus atten-
tion on arming other passengers as a means of negati ng
the effect of an armed terrorist. Both are directed at
solving a common core problem (preventing hijacking),
but the second definition has analyzed the problem to a
deeper level to find the real operational problem that
must be solved.
The former problem statement generates solutions,
some of which (like metal detectors) are not in the least
novel, are not 100% effective, and are, therefore, easier
to counteract. The metal-detector solution also gives
potential terrorists ample opportunity to study their
competition and devise their own creative ways to
counteract it. The first principle of malev olent creativity
(see below) states that terrorists will not always behave
the way that society wants them to behave. On the other
hand, a solution to the latter problem might, for
example, involve providing guns to all pa ssengers at
the first sign of a hijacking. Although radical, it is
certainly original and surprising (not least for the terror-
ist). Arguably this ‘‘auto-immune’’ aircraft solut ion
would have stopped the September 11 events within sec-
onds of the first terrorist brandishing a box cutter, and
saved thousands of lives.
The purpose of this example is not to suggest an
actual solution, but to illustrate the kinds of thinking
and analysis, based on concepts of creativity, which
would yield other real, workable solutions. Such
solutions, realistically, may only work once, because
that is the nature of creative solutions when they are
confronted wi th highly creative competing solutions. It
is no longer so much a case that the price of freedom
is eternal vigilance; rather, it is now the case that the
price of freedom is eternal creativity.
This article argues that successful counterterrorism—
and any anticriminal work—requires continuous
creativity based on a functional understanding of the
characteristics of creativity. We close by summarizing
the concept of functional creativity in the context of
terrorism and counterterrorism and crime through
11 principles of malevolent creativity. These principles
should be applied as a guide to the development of
creative counterterrorist and anticrime solutions.
In summary, the eleven principles of malevolent
creativity are:
1. People whose intentions are antisocial can, and do,
exhibit creativity in their actions, irrespective of
whether the majority social environment approves
of their aims.
2. Creativity, whether benevolent or malevolent, is a
competitive lever that does not respect societal con-
ventions. Its benefits are available to all who choose
to use it.
3. Creative products (solutions) are characterized by a
hierarchy of four parameters: relevance and effec-
tiveness, nov elty, elegance, and generalizability.
We must analyze terrorist products, as well as
our own counterterrorist solutions, against these
4. The more creative a solution is (i.e., the more novel,
elegant and generalizable), the more effe ctive it
5. The more creative a solution is, the more it reduces
the effectiveness of competing solutions.
6. A solution’s novelty will decay over time.
7. Exposure of a solution will accelerate the decay of
its novelty.
8. As a solution’s novelty decays, so does its effective-
ness (provided that countermeasures are put in
place or activated).
9. Competing solutions, especially creative compe-
tition, will accelerate the decay of novelty and
10. Proactive, preempt ive counterterrorist solutions are
also highly creative solutions. They exhibit the
characteristics of functional creativity.
11. Highly creative, preemptive counterterrorist
solutions must be deliberately engineered. They will
not happen of their own accord.
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... Malevolent creativity refers to the generation of original, deliberately malicious ideas (Cropley, Kaufman, & Cropley, 2008;Gutworth, Cushenbery, & Hunter, 2018;Harris & Reiter-Palmon, 2015). Malevolently creative ideas can be considered new and useful as all creative ideas are (Runco & Jaeger, 2012), but they are useful to their creators insofar as they can cause harm to the intended targets (Hunter, Walters, Nguyen, Manning, & Miller, 2022). ...
... Malevolent creativity is the application of original ideas to purposely harm others, often to gain an unfair advantage through manipulation, threat, or harm [5]. Examples of malevolent creativity may be seen in acts of social manipulation, physical assault, or even terrorism [6]. ...
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We assessed the relation of creativity and unethical behaviour by manipulating the thinking style of participants (N=450 adults) and measuring the impact of this manipulation on the prevalence of dishonest behaviour. Participants performed one of three inducer tasks: the alternative uses task to promote divergent thinking, the remote associates task to promote convergent thinking, or a simple classification task for rule-based thinking. Before and after this manipulation, participants conducted the mind game as a straightforward measure of dishonesty. Dishonest behaviour increased from before to after the intervention, but we found no credible evidence that this increase differed between induced mindsets. Exploratory analyses did not support any relation of trait creativity and dishonesty either. We conclude that the influence of creative thinking on unethical behaviour seems to be more ambiguous than assumed in earlier research or might be restricted to specific populations or contexts.
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Creativity can be driven by negative intentions, and this is called malevolent creativity (MC). It is a type of creativity that serves antisocial purposes and deliberately leads to harmful or immoral results. A possible classification indicates that there are three kinds of MC in daily life: hurting people, lying, and playing tricks. This study aimed to explore similar and distinct neural substrates underlying these different kinds of MC idea generation. The participants were asked to perform different MC tasks, and their neural responses were recorded using a functional near-infrared spectroscopy device. The findings revealed that most regions within the prefrontal and temporal lobes [e.g., the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), and right angular gyrus] were involved in the three MC tasks. However, the right frontopolar cortex (rFPC) was more activated and less coupled with the rDLPFC and right precuneus during the lying task than during the other tasks. Thus, rFPC may play an important role in constructing novel lies. In the lying task, individuals were more selfish and less compassionate. In the playing tricks and hurting people tasks, there was less neural coupling between the rDLPFC and the left inferior frontal gyrus/right inferior parietal lobule than that in the lying task. This may imply that selfish motivation is released when individuals try to ignore victims’ distress or generate aggressive tricks in hurting people or playing tricks tasks. These findings indicate that the three kinds of MC idea generation involve common cortical regions related to creative idea generation and moral judgment, whereas differences in cortical responses exist because of their unique features.
The subject of creativity has been neglected by psychologists. The immediate problem has two aspects. (1) How can we discover creative promise in our children and our youth, (2) How can we promote the development of creative personalities. Creative talent cannot be accounted for adequately in terms of I.Q. A new way of thinking about creativity and creative productivity is seen in the factorial conceptions of personality. By application of factor analysis a fruitful exploratory approach can be made. Carefully constructed hypotheses concerning primary abilities will lead to the use of novel types of tests. New factors will be discovered that will provide us with means to select individuals with creative personalities. The properties of primary abilities should be studied to improve educational methods and further their utilization. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The Context.- The Contemporary View.- Problems with the Contemporary View.- I Originality.- Originality, Novelty, and Continuity.- Art.- Science and Technology.- Mathematics.- Problem-Solving and Originality in Everyday Life.- Summary.- II Value.- Value in Art.- Value in Science.- Art and Science.- Summary.- III Product, Process, Person.- Product.- Process.- Persons.- Summary.- IV Rules, Skills, and Knowledge.- Rules and Art.- Rules and Science.- Knowledge and Problem-Solving.- Summary.- V The Something More.- Art and the Something More.- Science and the Something More.- Generation and Criticism.- Emotion and Attitude.- Fostering Creativity.
The purpose of the study was to ascertain whether advertising professionals judge advertising creativity in the same way as the general public, and whether demographic variables significantly affect judgments about the creativity of advertising. Fifteen print advertisements were evaluated using the Creative Product Semantic Scale. The judgments of advertising professionals, college students, and the general public were compared. The results were significantly different. There were also significant differences on the basis of demographic variables.
This article presents a brief discussion of creativity in advertising, along with some current views of advertisers which seem to infer that advertising agencies can be induced to be more creative through incentive programmes. One implication of this is that creativity can be ‘bought’ The article then explores the idea that television commercial popularity — a proxy for what some advertisers consider to be creative advertising — may be related to advertising expenditures. The statistical results support such a relationship. Finally, a content analysis of the attributes of the most popular television advertisements is presented.
This report presents the development and evaluation of the suspect retrieval system based on modus operandi developed by the National Research Institute of Police Science in Japan. The database used in the system stores a large number of records consisting of the modus operandi of prior offenders. A score is assigned to each record, where each score represents the similarity of the modus operandi between each record and a crime under investigation. The similarity is statistically calculated based on the choice probability of each modus operandi. Suspects in the database are rank ordered according to scores. The higher a rank is, the more likely a suspect is expected to have committed the crime under investigation. The validity of the system is evaluated with data about Japanese burglars (n = 12,468) and some factors influencing the accuracy of the retrieval are discussed.
In this study, professional art experts and nonexperts with an active interest in art rated sets of 10-20 slides of artworks made available by young artists. Each set was rated on bipolar scales, including not original - original; absence of craftsmanship - craftsmanship; and poor quality - good quality. Intraclass coefficients Ri for these three scales were .17, .21, and .22 for experts and .19, .08, and .16 for nonexperts, respectively. There was a significant agreement between experts and nonexperts with respect to originality, but no agreement with respect to craftsmanship and quality. The correlation between originality and quality was significantly (p < .01) higher for experts (r = .88) than for nonexperts (r = .40). Thus, experts seem to attach much more value to originality in determining aesthetic quality than nonexperts.