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“Going Out” of the box: Close intercultural friendships and romantic relationships spark creativity, workplace innovation, and entrepreneurship

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Abstract

The present research investigates whether close intercultural relationships promote creativity, workplace innovation, and entrepreneurship—outcomes vital to individual and organizational success. We triangulate on these questions with multiple methods (longitudinal, experimental, and field studies), diverse population samples (MBA students, employees, and professional repatriates), and both laboratory and real-world measures. Using a longitudinal design over a ten-month MBA program, Study 1 found that intercultural dating predicted improved creative performance on both divergent and convergent thinking tasks. Using an experimental design, Study 2 established the causal connection between intercultural dating and creativity: Among participants who had previously had both intercultural and intra-cultural dating experiences, those who reflected on an intercultural dating experience displayed higher creativity compared to those who reflected on an intra-cultural dating experience. Importantly, cultural learning mediated this effect. Extending the first two studies, Study 3 revealed that the duration of past intercultural romantic relationships positively predicted the ability of current employees to generate creative names for marketing products, but the number of past intercultural romantic partners did not. In Study 4, we analyzed an original dataset of 2,226 professional repatriates from 96 countries who had previously worked in the U.S. under J-1 visas: Participants’ frequency of contact with American friends since returning to their home countries positively predicted their workplace innovation and likelihood of becoming entrepreneurs. Going out with a close friend or romantic partner from a foreign culture can help people “go out” of the box and into a creative frame of mind.
“Going Out” of the Box: Close Intercultural Friendships and Romantic Relationships Spark
Creativity, Workplace Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
Jackson G. Lu
Columbia Business School
Andrew C. Hafenbrack
UCP – Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics
Paul W. Eastwick
University of California – Davis
Dan J. Wang
Columbia Business School
William W. Maddux
INSEAD
Adam D. Galinsky
Columbia Business School
© 2017, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly
replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors
permission. The final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI: 10.1037/apl0000212
CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Abstract
The present research investigates whether close intercultural relationships promote creativity,
workplace innovation, and entrepreneurship—outcomes vital to individual and organizational
success. We triangulate on these questions with multiple methods (longitudinal, experimental,
and field studies), diverse population samples (MBA students, employees, and professional
repatriates), and both laboratory and real-world measures. Using a longitudinal design over a ten-
month MBA program, Study 1 found that intercultural dating predicted improved creative
performance on both divergent and convergent thinking tasks. Using an experimental design,
Study 2 established the causal connection between intercultural dating and creativity: Among
participants who had previously had both intercultural and intra-cultural dating experiences,
those who reflected on an intercultural dating experience displayed higher creativity compared to
those who reflected on an intra-cultural dating experience. Importantly, cultural learning
mediated this effect. Extending the first two studies, Study 3 revealed that the duration of past
intercultural romantic relationships positively predicted the ability of current employees to
generate creative names for marketing products, but the number of past intercultural romantic
partners did not. In Study 4, we analyzed an original dataset of 2,226 professional repatriates
from 96 countries who had previously worked in the U.S. under J-1 visas: Participants’
frequency of contact with American friends since returning to their home countries positively
predicted their workplace innovation and likelihood of becoming entrepreneurs. Going out with a
close friend or romantic partner from a foreign culture can help people “go out” of the box and
into a creative frame of mind.
Keywords: culture, close relationships, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship
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“Going Out” of the Box: Close Intercultural Friendships and Romantic Relationships Spark
Creativity, Workplace Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
In 1891, a Polish woman left Warsaw for the first time to study abroad in Paris. While
there, she fell in love with and married a Frenchman. In the subsequent years, the two of them
worked shoulder-to-shoulder as they discovered radioactivity, a scientific advancement that
earned both Marie and Pierre Curie a Nobel Prize. The creative benefits of close intercultural
relationships extend beyond scientific breakthroughs to artistic and entrepreneurial
accomplishments. For example, when Steve Jobs was studying Japanese Zen Buddhism with
Kobun Otogawa in San Francisco, they met almost every day and went on retreats every few
months (Isaacson, 2011). As is well known, Jobs later instilled the “simplicity” philosophy of
Zen into the design of Apple products, which has been vital to Apple’s commercial success.
Despite such anecdotes, little research has investigated whether intercultural social
relationships can indeed spark creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This oversight is
puzzling, because intercultural relationships are increasingly ubiquitous (The Economist, 2016),
creativity and innovation are essential for the contemporary workplace (Zhou & Hoever, 2014),
and entrepreneurship is a critical catalyst for economic growth (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000).
Using a combination of longitudinal, experimental, and field studies, the present research aims to
fill this gap by investigating whether and how two types of intercultural social relationships—
intercultural friendships and romantic relationships—foster creativity, workplace innovation, and
entrepreneurship.
The current studies offer several important contributions. First, we contribute to work on
expatriates and multicultural experiences. Although past studies have linked living and working
abroad with enhanced creativity (Godart, Maddux, Shipilov, & Galinsky, 2015; Maddux &
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Galinsky, 2009), little research has explored how social relationships between individuals from
different cultures might affect creativity. This is an important omission because intercultural
social relationships are an essential component of many multicultural experiences. Moreover,
thanks to the rise of globalization, more and more people are able to experience foreign cultures
through intercultural social connections without leaving their home countries. Second, despite
the unprecedented growth of intercultural social relationships, the present research represents one
of the few empirical attempts to study their psychological consequences. Third, although a
wealth of research points to the significance of social relationships inside and outside the
workplace (Duffy, Ganster, & Pagon, 2002; Duffy, Scott, Shaw, Tepper, & Aquino, 2012;
Edwards & Rothbard; 2000; Shaw et al., 2011; Zellars, Tepper, & Duffy, 2002), little work has
examined how intercultural social relationships might influence important work-related
outcomes such as creativity and innovation. Relatedly, whereas the literature on work-life
interface has mostly focused on the role of familial relationships (for a review, see Greenhaus &
Powell, 2006), the current research investigates the effects of friendships and non-marital
romantic relationships. Fourth, we contribute to research on creativity by assessing creativity not
only with well-established divergent and convergent thinking tasks that are high in internal
validity, but also with two real-world outcomes directly relevant to organizations—
entrepreneurship and workplace innovation. In so doing, we fill a previously acknowledged gap
in the literature concerning how individual experiences can impact what is known as the “Big C”
creativity (Simonton, 1994), or creativity that contributes to the development and prosperity of
organizations and societies (Maddux, Leung, Galinsky, & Chiu, 2009; c.f. Godart et al., 2015).
We integrate these varied literatures by exploring which particular aspects of intercultural
relationships are conducive to creativity. Specifically, the present research compares the effects
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of (1) the duration of intercultural relationships, (2) the frequency of contact of intercultural
relationships, and (3) the number of intercultural relationships. As a result, the current studies
advance the emerging work on the differential effects of the depth versus the breadth of
multicultural experiences (Cao, Galinsky, & Maddux, 2014; Godart et al., 2015; Lu et al., 2017).
Overall, we illustrate how close intercultural social relationships can promote creative
performance and entrepreneurial activities.
The Importance of Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
Creativity—the ability to generate ideas that are both novel and useful (e.g., Amabile,
1983; Oldham & Cummings, 1996)—is vital to individual and organizational success. In a
survey of over 1,500 CEOs from 60 nations and 33 industries, creativity was ranked over
integrity and global thinking as the most important leadership quality (IBM, 2010). When
appropriately integrated with labor and capital, creative ideas can turn into innovations (Zhou &
Hoever, 2014). Workplace innovations empower an organization to survive and thrive in
dynamic environments that present unforeseen challenges and opportunities (Anderson, De Dreu,
& Nijstad, 2004). According to a McKinsey Global Survey of over 1,400 corporate leaders
around the world, more than 70 percent listed innovation as a top-three priority of their
organizations (Barsh, Capozzi, & Davidson, 2008).
Relatedly, entrepreneurship—defined as the process of discovering, evaluating, and
exploiting economic opportunities to produce future goods and services—is the engine of
economic growth and prosperity (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). Compared to other types of
economic activities, entrepreneurship typically requires creative thinking. For example, Baum
and Locke (2004) suggest that the form of human capital most valuable to founding a venture is
the ability to identify and mobilize resources from diverse domains and to recombine them in
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novel ways. In short, “novel and useful ideas are the lifeblood of entrepreneurship” (Ward, 2004,
p.174).
How Close Intercultural Social Relationships Increase Creativity:
The Role of Cultural Learning
A growing body of research has found that multicultural experiences, such as living and
working abroad, can increase individuals’ creative thinking (Franzoni, Scellato, & Stephan,
2014; Godart et al., 2015; Lee, Therriault, & Linderholm, 2012; Leung, Maddux, Galinsky, &
Chiu, 2008; Maddux & Galinsky, 2009). Importantly, however, living and working abroad are
not the only kinds of multicultural experiences.
As one understudied aspect of multicultural experiences, intercultural social relationships
are increasingly common throughout the world. For example, the number of international
students worldwide has skyrocketed from 2 million to 4.5 million since 2000, and is anticipated
to balloon to over 7 million by 2025 (The Economist, 2016). PwC’s Talent Mobility 2020 report
revealed that the number of international expatriates had increased by 25% over the past ten
years and predicted a further 50% increase by 2020 (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010). According
to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, from 1996 to 2006 the United States doubled the
number of immigrants admitted as spouses of U.S. citizens from 169,760 to 339,843, in spite of a
decrease in the total number of newly registered marriages. Similarly, while 19,458 German
citizens married a non-citizen in 1960, 50,686 did in 1995 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 1997).
Despite these trends, little empirical research has studied the psychological consequences of
social relationships that occur across cultures.
In the current research, we adopt the creative cognition approach (Finke, Ward, & Smith,
1992; Leung et al., 2008; Smith, Ward, & Finke, 1995) to theorize that intercultural social
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relationships can spark creativity. While some creativity research focuses on the personality
traits conducive to creativity (e.g., openness to experience, tolerance of ambiguity; for a review,
see Feist, 1998), the creative cognition approach argues that “creative processes are not much
different from those cognitive processes that produce our everyday mundane activities” (Leung
et al., 2008, p. 171) and that all individuals can train their minds to be more creative (Finke et al.,
1992; Weisberg, 1993). For example, being exposed to more diverse ideas can increase the
creative content of the mind (Maddux & Galinsky, 2009). Additionally, strategies that alter the
processes of cognition, such as inducing a promotion-oriented regulatory focus (Friedman &
Förster, 2001) and activating a counterfactual mindset (Kray, Galinsky, & Wong, 2006), have
also been shown to enhance creativity.
Based on this creative cognition approach, we propose that intercultural social
relationships can increase creativity by promoting cultural learning. Consistent with the existing
literature (Maddux, Adam, & Galinsky, 2010), we define cultural learning as the acquisition of
new information and understanding about the assumptions, beliefs, customs, norms, values, or
language of another culture.
We posit that intercultural relationships can provide the cultural learning that shapes both
the content and the processes of creative cognition. In terms of the content of creative cognition,
intercultural relationships provide opportunities for individuals to learn about disparate concepts
and ideas from different cultures, which they can then draw upon to synthesize novel and useful
insights (Leung et al., 2008)—as exemplified by how Steve Jobs learned Zen principles from
Kobun Otogawa and later applied them to Apple’s design mantra (“Simplicity is the ultimate
sophistication”; Isaacson, 2011). The notion that intercultural relationships can expand an
individual’s creative capacity is also supported by self-expansion theory (Aron & Aron, 1986),
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which suggests that the shared experiences afforded by social relationships can lead individuals
to integrate the perspectives, traits, and identities of their counterparts into their own self-
concepts. Moreover, a host of studies in the social network literature have demonstrated that
network diversity is conducive to creative ideas (Burt, 2004; Chua, 2015; Perry-Smith, 2006).
Intercultural ties not only facilitate the flow of new information from intercultural partners, but
also signal general open-mindedness to observers from the home culture, who in turn are more
apt to share novel content with the subject (Chua, 2015).
With regard to cognitive processes, the cultural learning enabled by intercultural
relationships can enhance individuals’ cognitive flexibility and complexity (Maddux, Bivolaru,
Hafenbrack, Tadmor, & Galinsky, 2014; Tadmor, Galinsky, & Maddux, 2012). When people are
immersed in intra-cultural social relationships (e.g., a romantic relationship with someone from
one’s home country), their creativity tends to be constrained by the conventions and routines of
their home culture. In contrast, when people engage in intercultural social relationships, they are
prompted to scrutinize the different underlying assumptions and schemas in both cultures. For
instance, an American host might be offended if a Chinese guest left food on her plate (because
American culture views it as a disapproval of the meal)—until the Chinese friend explains that in
Chinese culture, leaving food on one’s plate is a signal of gratitude that a guest has been well fed
(Seligman, 1999). Such cultural learning allows both sides to recognize that different cultural
scripts underlie the same surface behavior and, as a result, to approach future situations with
greater cognitive flexibility and complexity (Maddux et al., 2014; Tadmor et al., 2012).
In addition, cultural learning can shape the very personality traits associated with
creativity. For example, intercultural social relationships can transform individuals to become
more open to diverse experiences and more tolerant of ambiguous concepts, both of which
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facilitate the absorption of creative content (Feist, 1998). Furthermore, fMRI research has
revealed that the level of acculturation to a foreign culture correlates with the strength of certain
brain activities (Hedden, Ketay, Aron, Markus, & Gabrieli, 2008), which suggests that cultural
learning may even alter the neurological structures related to the cognitive content and processes
of creativity.
The Importance of Close Intercultural Relationships
Thus far, we have theorized that intercultural social relationships can increase creativity
by facilitating cultural learning. However, we do not expect that all intercultural social
relationships are equally conducive to creativity. Instead, we propose that for intercultural
relationships to generate the necessary cultural learning that elevates creativity, they must be
sufficiently close and meaningful.
In the existing literature on the creative benefits of foreign experiences, one consistent
finding is that the depth of foreign experiences is a critical driver of creativity. For example,
Maddux and Galinsky (2009) found that time spent living abroad predicted increases in
creativity, whereas time spent traveling abroad did not. Similarly, a study of the world’s top
fashion houses revealed that, compared to the number of foreign countries in which fashion
directors had worked (i.e., breadth), the number of years that they had worked abroad (i.e.,
depth) was a stronger predictor of the creativity of their firms’ fashion lines (Godart et al., 2015).
This is because deeper rather than broader foreign experiences allow individuals to learn and
incorporate new content and processes of thinking into the self (Godart et al., 2015).
In a similar vein, we theorize that the closeness of intercultural social relationships is
particularly important for cultural learning and thus creativity. The present research investigated
the creative benefits of two types of close intercultural social relationships: intercultural
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friendships and romantic relationships. Both anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that,
compared to other non-familial relationships (e.g., supervisor-subordinate, peer coworker,
client), friendships and romantic relationships tend to be closer because they are more voluntary,
intimate, and personalized. In contrast to work relationships, friends treat each other as unique
and whole persons rather than simple role occupants (Wright, 1984), which provides both
context and motivation for more substantive personal connections. Rather than merely
exchanging work-related information, close friends engage with each other at a deeper level
through the disclosure of personal information, demonstrating mutual trust, and reciprocating
help and emotional support (Sias & Cahill, 1998; Wright, 1984). Similar to close friendships,
romantic relationships often represent some of our closest social relationships. In light of the
triangular theory of love (Sternberg, 1986), romantic relationships are typically characterized by
intimacy, passion, and commitment, all of which are conducive to learning and integrating the
other’s perspectives and identities into one’s own self-concept (Aron & Aron, 1986; Aron, Aron,
Tudor, & Nelson, 1991).
Given the proposition that the closeness of intercultural relationships may be critical to
cultural learning and thus creativity, we hypothesize that the duration and the frequency of
contact of intercultural relationships will be more predictive of an individual’s creativity than the
number of intercultural relationships. This is because duration and contact frequency are better
proxies for the closeness of an intercultural relationship. Compared with someone who dates a
new foreigner every month, a person who is committed to a long-term intercultural romantic
relationship has more opportunities and incentives to learn about another culture. Likewise, the
more contact two intercultural friends have with each other, the more chances they have to
assimilate and draw upon ideas from both cultures to synthesize novel and useful insights (Leung
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& Chiu, 2010). As an intercultural relationship grows, each individual may also become more
deeply embedded in the other’s social network via interactions with friends and family members,
further promoting cultural learning and creativity.
Overview of the Present Research
Using diverse samples (MBA students, employees, and professional repatriates), mixed
methodologies (longitudinal, experimental, and field studies), and both laboratory and real-world
measures of creativity, the present research examined the link between close intercultural social
relationships and creativity. Study 1 was a longitudinal study that explored whether the
experience of dating a foreigner during an MBA program led to an increase in creativity. To
examine the causal relationship intercultural dating and creativity, Study 2 randomly assigned
participants, all of whom had previously had both intercultural and intra-cultural dating
experiences, to reflect on either an intercultural or intra-cultural dating experience before
assessing their creative performance. In addition, we tested whether cultural learning mediated
the link from intercultural dating to creativity. Extending the first two studies, Study 3 instructed
current employees to brainstorm new product names, and compared the creative effects of the
duration versus the number of their past intercultural romantic experiences. As a comparison,
Study 3 also contrasted intercultural dating with intra-cultural dating. Finally, Study 4 examined
the creative benefits of intercultural friendships. Using a survey of 2,226 repatriates who had
significant work experience abroad in the U.S., we investigated whether their frequency of
contact with American friends since returning to their home countries positively predicted (a)
their likelihood of becoming entrepreneurs in their home countries and (b) their workplace
innovation in their home countries.
Below we report all the studies that we have conducted on the relationship between
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intercultural social relationships and creativity. In all studies, we report all conditions, creativity
measures, and data exclusions. All study materials and procedures were reviewed and approved
by the Institutional Review Board (Study 1: INSEAD N°2520-322R, “Multicultural Experiences
and Creativity”; Studies 2 and 3: Columbia University AAAQ0014, “Intercultural Dating and
Creativity”; Study 4: Stanford University #21178, “The Global Careers and Global Knowledge
Survey”).
Study 1: Longitudinal Evidence for the Effect of Intercultural Dating on Creativity
In a two-phase longitudinal study, we tracked students across a ten-month MBA program
to examine the effect of intercultural romantic relationships on creativity. We predicted that the
experience of intercultural dating during the program would lead to an increase in creativity from
matriculation to graduation.
Method
Participants and design. One hundred and fifteen MBA students (31 female; mean age
= 28.6 years) from a top international business school voluntarily participated in the two-phase
study for a chance to win 1 of 10 iPad 2s. We attempted to recruit as many MBA participants as
possible. The participant sample represented 39 nationalities.
Participants completed Phase 1 of the study at the beginning of the program in early
September and Phase 2 at the end of the program in late June. We excluded six participants from
data analysis for not completing all measures of creativity at both phases.
Intercultural dating. At Phase 2, participants responded to the following question, “Did
you date anyone from a culture other than your own while at the program?” Twenty-two percent
of participants (N = 24) reported that they had dated someone from another culture.1
1 Participants also listed the nationalities of their five closest friends in the MBA program. We counted the number
of foreign friends listed by each participant (M = 4.06, SD = 1.06). We did not include this variable in regression
analyses because it suffered from a limited range and a ceiling effect: 75.2% of participants indicated four or five
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Creativity measures. Both phases of the study used three distinct tasks to assess the two
critical dimensions of creativity: divergent and convergent thinking (e.g., Cropley, 2006;
Kaufman & Sternberg, 2010; Lu, Akinola, & Mason, in press). Divergent thinking occurs when a
person’s thoughts move spontaneously in diverse directions to generate multiple creative ideas
(Mednick, 1962). In contrast, convergent thinking occurs when someone arrives at an “Aha!”
moment (Kounios & Beeman, 2009) and identifies the unique or best solution to a clearly
defined problem (Cropley, 2006).
Alternative Uses Task. To measure divergent thinking, we employed the widely used
Alternative Uses Task (AUT; Guilford, 1967). At Phase 1, participants had two minutes to
generate as many creative uses as they could for a brick. At Phase 2, they had two minutes to
generate as many creative uses as they could for a box. In keeping with past studies (e.g., Gino &
Wiltermuth, 2014; Tadmor et al., 2012), we assessed creative performance on the AUT by
having independent raters code responses for fluency (i.e., the total number of uses;
ICC(2)fluency_brick = .99, ICC(2)fluency_box = .99), flexibility (i.e., the total number of unique categories
of uses; ICC(2)flexiblity_brick = .89, ICC(2)flexiblity_box = .88), and novelty (ICC(2)novelty_brick = .99,
ICC(2)novelty_box = .94).
Remote Associates Test. To measure verbal convergent thinking, we employed the
commonly used Remote Associates Test (RAT; Mednick, 1962). The RAT presents three cue
words and asks the subject to conceive a fourth word that is logically associated with each of
those three words (e.g., manner, round, tennis table). At each study phase, participants
attempted five RAT problems (Appendix A). Their performance was measured by the total
number of RAT problems solved correctly.
friendships as intercultural and over 40% indicated all five friendships as intercultural.
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Insight problems. Third, to measure insight convergent thinking, we adopted two puzzles
that required “thinking out of the box”. At Phase 1, participants had three minutes to solve the
nine-dot puzzle (Kershaw & Ohlsson, 2004; Appendix B). At Phase 2, participants had three
minutes to solve the coin puzzle (Appendix C).
For each of the three types of creativity measures, the tasks were pretested to be similar
in difficulty at Phase 1 and Phase 2. We did not counterbalance the creativity measures due to the
concern that participants might discuss them between the two study phases.
Control variables. We accounted for a variety of potentially confounding variables in
our regression analyses. First, we assessed demographic and personality control variables
pertinent to creativity: age, gender, and Big-Five personality traits (five-point Likert scale;
Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003). Second, since the MBA experience might differ for
international versus domestic students, we controlled for whether a participant was a domestic
student (11.0%). Furthermore, since intellectual performance might positively predict both
creativity and the ease of securing a dating partner, we controlled for GPA. In a similar vein, we
controlled for pre-MBA annual salary (in €1,000) as an indicator of wealth. Finally, at Phase 1
we used a three-item measure (α = .69) to assess cultural “colorblind” beliefs (adapted from
Wolsko, Park, & Judd, 2006), which might affect the extent to which participants were open to
close intercultural relationships (Morris, Chiu, & Liu, 2015). The three items were: “The various
nationalities in the world are more similar to one another than they are different”, “People should
realize that nationalities carry very little real meaning—we are all equals”, and “I want my
children to learn that all people are basically the same—even though their nationality may be
different” (five-point Likert scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree).
Results
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Descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations are displayed in Table 1.
Composite score of creativity. For both Phases 1 and 2, we standardized the five
creativity measures (i.e., AUT fluency, AUT flexibility, AUT novelty, number of correct RAT
problems, whether insight problem was solved) and averaged them to compute a composite score
of creativity (αPhase1 = .78, αPhase2 = .70).
Following the common econometric approach, we present a progression of regression
models with additional control variables added at each step to demonstrate the robustness of the
effect of our key predictor variable (i.e., intercultural dating). Controlling for the Phase 1
composite creativity score, intercultural dating alone positively predicted the Phase 2 composite
creativity score (Table 2, Model 1: B = .39, SE = .13, p = .005). This effect remained significant
when we further accounted for Big-Five personality traits (Table 2, Model 2: B = .36, SE = .14, p
= .010) and the other control variables (Table 2, Model 3: B = .48, SE = .14, p < .001). Finally, in
a trimmed model that retained only the variables that were significantly correlated with the Phase
2 composite creativity score, intercultural dating remained a significant predictor (Table 2,
Model 4: B = .43, SE = .13, p = .001).
Robustness checks. To scrutinize the robustness of the relationship between intercultural
dating and creativity, we conducted casewise diagnostics and identified one outlier that was more
than three standard deviations away from the mean Phase 2 composite creativity score. In the full
model, the effect of intercultural dating remained significant even after we excluded this outlier
(B = .51, SE = .14, p < .001).
As a further robustness check, we computed a composite score with just the four
continuous creativity measures (i.e., AUT fluency, AUT flexibility, AUT novelty, and number of
correct RAT problems) for both Phases 1 and 2 (αPhase1 = .84, αPhase2 = .78). The above results
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were replicated: Controlling for the Phase 1 composite creativity score, intercultural dating
positively predicted the Phase 2 composite creativity score—whether alone (B = .45, SE = .15, p
= .004), in the full model (B = .51, SE = .16, p = .002), or in the trimmed model (B = .50, SE = .
15, p < .001).
As detailed in Table 3, the effect of intercultural dating on each Phase 2 creativity
measure (fluency, flexibility, novelty, RAT, and insight problem) was also individually
significant when accounting for their respective Phase 1 score (e.g., for Phase 2 AUT fluency,
we controlled for Phase 1 AUT fluency) and the other control variables.
Discussion
Using a longitudinal design, Study 1 found that intercultural dating predicted an increase
in both divergent and convergent forms of creativity over time. Across all creativity measures,
participants who dated individuals from other cultures exhibited superior creative performance at
Phase 2 (controlling for creative performance at Phase 1).
Study 2: Experimental Evidence for the Effect of Intercultural (vs. Intra-cultural) Dating
on Creativity
To establish a causal link between intercultural dating and creativity, Study 2 employed
an experimental method. Since it is impractical to randomly assign people to date someone from
a foreign country or their home country, we examined whether reflecting on an intercultural
dating experience versus an intra-cultural dating experience would temporarily increase
creativity. The dynamic constructivist approach to culture and cognition (Hong, Ip, Chiu, Morris,
& Menon, 2001; Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet-Martinez, 2000) suggests that when both ́
intercultural and intra-cultural experiences are cognitively available to a person, their relative
accessibility determines which type of experience will have a greater influence on subsequent
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thoughts and behaviors. For example, when priming individuals—all of whom had previously
lived abroad—to recall and write about either an experience of living abroad or an experience of
living in their hometown, Maddux and Galinsky (2009, Study 3) found that the former group
temporarily exhibited higher creativity than the latter group (see also Cao et al., 2014; Maddux et
al., 2010).
Adopting the same methodology, we recruited a sample of participants who had
previously had both intercultural and intra-cultural dating experiences, and asked them to write
about either a past intercultural or intra-cultural dating experience before measuring their
creativity. The selection criteria and experimental design thus controlled for the dating
experiences of our sample and varied only the type of romantic relationship that participants
reflected on. In light of our theoretical reasoning, we hypothesized that, compared to participants
who wrote about an intra-cultural dating experience, participants who wrote about an
intercultural dating experience would be more likely to reactivate their past cultural learning
experiences, and thus to display higher creativity. In other words, we predicted that cultural
learning would mediate the effect of recalling an intercultural versus intra-cultural dating
experience on creativity.
Method
Participants and design. We recruited 128 participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk
(MTurk) to complete the study. Participants qualified for the experiment only if they had dated
both someone from a foreign country and someone from their home country. All participants
identified the United States as their home country. We excluded 17 participants who indicated
having participated in a study before that involved the RAT and three participants who failed to
follow instructions, leaving 108 participants for the purpose of data analysis. Among the 108
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participants (50.0% female; mean age = 34.3 years, 88.0% heterosexual), 75.0% self-identified
as White, 10.1% as Black/African American, 6.4% as Hispanic/Latino, 3.7% as Asian, and 4.6%
as Other.
Experimental manipulation. At the beginning of the study, participants first answered
two questions about their dating experiences: (1) Have you dated anyone from a foreign country?
If so, how many? (2) Have you dated anyone from your own country? If so, how many? We
programmed the survey such that those participants who did not report having had both types of
dating experiences were immediately disqualified from continuing the study. After verifying that
participants had had both intercultural and intra-cultural dating experiences, we instructed them
to describe a dating experience in as much detail as they could within five minutes. By random
assignment, participants wrote about either an intercultural or intra-cultural dating experience. In
both conditions, participants were prompted to describe where their partner was from, what they
had done together with their partner, what they had learned from their partner, interactions with
their partner’s friends and family, whether they were more similar or dissimilar to their partner,
and so forth.
Cultural learning vs. non-cultural learning. Independent judges blind to the
experimental conditions coded whether each essay contained any description of cultural learning
(1 = yes, 0 = no; Cohen’s kappa = .98) and any description of non-cultural learning (1 = yes, 0 =
no; Cohen’s kappa = .93). More specifically, “cultural learning” was considered present if a
participant explicitly described learning about another culture (e.g., “I learned a lot about his
Hindu culture and the family values and traditions that they hold dear”; “I learned a lot about
Japanese customs and cultures and I ended up interested in mochi”; “I learned how to make
Haitian food”). By contrast, “non-cultural learning” was considered present if a participant
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explicitly described learning in non-cultural domains (e.g., “I have learned to become more
tolerant and patient”; “I learned many things from her, the value of hard work, dedication and
striving to always be kind and fair with people”; “I learned to not give up and make no
excuses”). An essay would receive a “1” for both cultural and non-cultural learning if both were
described.
Creativity task. To assess creativity, we used one of the measures from Study 1: the
Remote Associates Test (RAT). Participants had up to five minutes to complete a maximum of
15 RAT problems (Appendix D). This was the only creativity measure we collected in Study 2.
Results
Creativity. As predicted, participants in the intercultural condition correctly solved
significantly more RAT problems (M = 8.07, SD = 3.35) than did those in the intra-cultural
condition (M = 6.56, SD = 3.26; t[106] = 2.39, p = .019, d = 0.46). This difference remained
significant even after controlling for the number of words in each essay (t[106] = 2.29, p = .
024).2
Cultural learning. Not surprisingly, participants in the intercultural condition were
significantly more likely to write about cultural learning (57.4%) than were those in the intra-
cultural condition (3.7%; χ2[1, N = 108] = 36.70, p < .001); in contrast, participants in the
intercultural condition were significantly less likely to write about non-cultural learning (27.8%)
than were those in the intra-cultural condition (72.2%; χ2[1, N = 108] = 21.33, p < .001).
Mediation by cultural learning. Importantly, cultural learning positively predicted the
number of RAT problems solved correctly (B = 2.30, SE = .67, p = .001), whereas non-cultural
2 Participants also indicated the extent to which they had adapted themselves to the partner described in the essay
(1= not at all, 5 = very much). The intercultural condition indicated marginally lower adaptation to their partner (M
= 3.02, SD = 1.07) than the intra-cultural condition (M = 3.35, SD = 1.05; t[106] = –1.70, p = .106, d = 0.31). This
was not surprising given that it is generally more difficult to adapt to individuals from other cultures. This adaptation
measure did not correlate with the creativity measure (r = – .04, p = .68).
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learning did not (B = – .52, SE = .65, p = .43). This effect of cultural learning remained
significant even after controlling for the number of words in each essay (B = 2.19, SE = .69, p = .
002). A bootstrapping analysis with 5,000 iterations (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) revealed that
cultural learning fully mediated the effect of experimental condition on RAT performance (bias-
corrected 95% CI = [.1447, 2.1559]).
Discussion
Study 2 found that participants achieved superior creative performance when reflecting
on an intercultural dating experience versus an intra-cultural dating experience. Thus, this study
provides causal evidence for the effect of intercultural dating on creativity. Moreover, mediation
analyses suggest that intercultural dating promotes creativity because it allows for cultural
learning (Maddux et al., 2010).
Study 3: The Duration vs. Number of Intercultural Relationships as Predictors of
Creativity
Study 3 extended the first two studies in several notable ways. First, whereas Studies 1
and 2 only examined the overall experience of intercultural dating, Study 3 compared two
aspects of intercultural dating: the duration versus the number of intercultural romantic
relationships. Because duration is a proxy for the closeness of intercultural relationships, and
because sufficient closeness is indispensable for cultural learning, we hypothesized that duration
would be a stronger predictor of creativity than the number of intercultural relationships. As a
comparison, we also measured the duration and the number of intra-cultural relationships.
Second, to examine the generalizability of our findings, we recruited a sample of current
employees. Third, to ground our findings in an organizational context, we tested participants’
ability to generate creative names for new marketing products.
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Method
Participants and design. We recruited 163 current employees from MTurk to participate
in the study. Participants qualified for the study only if they were currently employed. All
participants identified the United States as their home country. We excluded 22 participants who
failed to follow instructions (e.g., their product names were not all one-word) or had missing
variables, leaving 141 participants for the purpose of data analysis. Among the 141 participants
(53.9% female; mean age = 36.4 years, 92.9% heterosexual), 83.7% self-identified as White,
5.0% as Black/African American, 4.3% as Asian, 3.5% as Hispanic/Latino, and 3.5% as Other.
Participants first completed a product name generation task that measured creativity, then
reported their intercultural and intra-cultural dating experiences, and lastly responded to
demographic and personality control variables.
Intercultural and intra-cultural romantic relationships. In reporting their past
romantic relationships, participants indicated the number of individuals they had dated from
foreign countries, the duration of each intercultural relationship in months (which we summed as
the total duration of intercultural dating), the number of individuals they had dated from their
home country, and the duration of each intra-cultural relationship in months (which we summed
as the total duration of intra-cultural dating). The order of the four questions was
counterbalanced.
Creativity task. In order to measure creativity in a more organizationally relevant
manner, we adapted a divergent thinking task from Rubin, Stolzfus, and Wall (1991).
Specifically, we asked participants to imagine that they were interviewing with a top marketing
firm, and part of the interview involved assessing their aptitude for business and potential as
employees (Galinsky, Magee, Gruenfeld, Whitson, & Liljenquist, 2008). They were instructed to
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create three one-word names for each of three product categories: pasta, nuclear element, and
pain reliever. To facilitate their idea generation, six examples were provided for each category
(see Kray et al., 2006). Importantly, for each of the three categories, the examples had two
common endings: all of the pasta examples ended in “na” or “ni” (e.g., lasagna, rigatoni), all of
the nuclear elements examples ended in “on” or “ium” (e.g., radon, plutonium), and all of the
pain reliever examples ended in “ol” or “in” (e.g., tylenol, bufferin). In keeping with past studies
(Galinsky et al., 2008; Kray et al., 2006; Rubin et al., 1991), we operationalized creativity as the
total number of names that did not share the endings of the supplied examples (M = 3.33, SD =
2.36).
Control variables. At the end of the survey, we measured demographic and personality
control variables pertinent to creativity: age, gender, sexual orientation, education, annual salary
(in $1,000), the number of languages spoken fluently, and Big-Five personality traits (seven-
point Likert scale; Gosling et al., 2003).
Results
Descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations are displayed in Table 4.
As predicted, the duration of intercultural relationships alone significantly and positively
predicted creativity (Table 5 Model 1: B = .03, SE = .01, p = .005). In contrast, creativity was not
significantly predicted by the number of intercultural relationships, the duration of intra-cultural
relationships, or the number of intra-cultural relationships (all three p’s > .05).
When we entered all four independent variables into a simultaneous regression, the
duration of intercultural relationships remained a significant predictor of creativity (Table 5
Model 2: B = .02, SE = .01, p = .022), while the other three variables remained non-significant
(all p’s > .05). The effect of intercultural dating duration persisted when we further accounted for
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Big-Five personality traits (Table 5 Model 3: B = .02, SE = .01, p = .037) and the other control
variables (Table 5 Model 4: B = .03, SE = .01, p = .021).
There was no significant quadratic relationship between the duration of intercultural
relationships and creativity (B = – .00, SE = .00, p = .92), nor between the number of
intercultural relationships and creativity (B = – .19, SE = .22, p = .41). The interaction of the
number of intercultural relationships (mean-centered) and the duration of intercultural
relationships (mean-centered) was not significant either (B = .00, SE = .02, p = .82).
Discussion
Building upon the first two studies, Study 3 contrasted the effect of intercultural versus
intra-cultural romantic relationships, as well as the effect of the duration versus the number of
both types of relationships. Consistent with our theory and the growing consensus that the depth
of multicultural experiences is the key predictor of creativity, the duration of intercultural dating
emerged as the critical predictor of creativity—even after accounting for a host of pertinent
control variables. Of course, other unmeasured predictors of creativity were likely at play as
indicated by the R-squared values of the regression models. Overall, the results supported our
hypothesis that the duration of intercultural relationships positively predicts creative
performance.
Study 4: Field Evidence for the Effect of Intercultural Friendships on Entrepreneurship
and Workplace Innovation
The purpose of Study 4 was three-fold. First, to further investigate the generalizability of
our findings, we recruited a sample from yet another population—professional repatriates who
had worked in the U.S. before returning to their home countries. Second, whereas the first three
studies focused on the effect of intercultural romantic relationships, Study 4 examined another
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type of intercultural relationship: intercultural friendships. We predicted that the frequency of
contact between participants and their foreign friends would positively predict creative outcomes
because the more interactions individuals have with their foreign friends, the more opportunities
they have to engage in cultural learning (Maddux et al., 2010) and to synthesize diverse cultural
perspectives to generate creative insights (Leung & Chiu, 2010). Third, the first three studies
employed cognitive tasks that have been widely used and validated in the creativity literature
(i.e., Alternative Uses Task, Remote Associates Test, insight problems, product name generation
task). Although these tasks have high internal validity, they may lack external validity (Runco &
Sakamoto, 1999). Thus, it is unclear whether the effect of intercultural social relationships would
generalize to the “Big C” creativity (Simonton, 1994), or creative outcomes that are highly
important for organizations. To address this concern, we investigated whether these professional
repatriates’ frequency of contact with American friends since returning to their home countries
was conducive to (1) entrepreneurship and (2) workplace innovation.
Method
Participants and design. The survey was conducted with the help of a non-profit
professional exchange organization called Global Exchange (GlobalEx), which is designated by
the U.S. Department of State to sponsor J-1 visas for skilled foreign nationals. The J-1 visa
allows non-U.S. nationals who have had education and training in a professional field (e.g.,
software engineering, management) to work for a host organization in the U.S. for between 3 and
24 months. Although several subcategories of the J-1 visa exist, GlobalEx sponsors only “intern”
and “trainee” J-1 visas, which are functionally similar and only issued to skilled workers with
higher education and professional work experience (age range: 21-35).
Between 1997 and 2013, GlobalEx sponsored the J-1 visas of 10,951 individuals from
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120 different countries, who worked in over 2,000 small- to large-sized companies in the U.S
(e.g., Google, Merrill Lynch). A total of 3,840 recipients of J-1 visas sponsored by GlobalEx
(“alumni”) completed the survey (response rate = 35.1%). On average, they had spent 305.83
days (SD = 175.46) in the U.S. under a J-1 visa. There was no statistically significant difference
between respondents and non-respondents in basic demographics, such as age, gender, and
country of origin.
The survey mainly covered respondents’ work experiences in the U.S., career activities in
their home countries since return, and their attitudes and beliefs about the U.S. and their home
countries. Importantly, for the 2,226 respondents (M = 32.20 years, SD = 6.53, 36.0% female)
who had already returned to their home countries (Ncountries = 96), the survey contained
information about their ongoing friendships with the Americans whom they had met while
working in the U.S., as well as information about respondents’ activities both inside and outside
the workplace in their home countries since their return.
Intercultural friendships. All respondents reported the frequency of contact with their
American friends since they returned to their home countries (seven-point Likert-type scale: 1 =
never, 2 = less than once a month, 3 = once a month, 4 = 2~3 times a month, 5 = once a week, 6
= 2~3 times a week, 7 = daily; M = 2.98, SD = 1.60). We interpret contact frequency as an
indicator of the strength of a respondent’s ties to their American friends.
Creativity measures: entrepreneurship and workplace innovation. We used two
variables to measure real-world creativity. The first variable—entrepreneurship—was a binary
variable that captured whether a respondent had founded a business since returning to his or her
home country (14.6% said “yes”). Four of the 2,226 respondents interpreted this question as also
referring to self-employment through contract work, so we coded their responses as “no”.
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Our second creativity variable examined non-entrepreneur respondents’ workplace
innovation in their home countries. Specifically, the survey asked them to describe the most
recent instance in which they made a suggestion to change or introduce some practice in the
workplace of their home countries. Examples include a software engineer who recommended a
new way of conducting peer code review or an architect who introduced a novel method of
organizing project blueprints. For this dependent variable, we limit our analysis to the 1,412
respondents who reported making such a workplace suggestion. After describing the suggestions,
these respondents indicated the extent to which they agreed with the statement, “This suggestion
creates an entirely new practice in my company” (seven-point Likert scale: 1 = very much
disagree, 7 = very much agree; M = 4.87, SD = 1.48). We interpreted higher values of this
variable to signal greater workplace innovation.
Control variables. We accounted for a variety of potentially confounding variables in
our regression analyses. First, we controlled for each respondent’s age, gender, and education.
Second, we controlled for the number of days respondents worked in the U.S. under the J-1 visa
as well as the amount of time elapsed since they returned to their home countries. Third, we
controlled for the respondent’s cultural intelligence based on a five-question battery (e.g., “I can
describe the ways that behaviors differ across cultures”; seven-point Likert scale: 1 = very much
disagree, 7 = very much agree; α = .86) (Earley & Ang, 2003). Fourth, we assessed each
respondent’s job embeddedness in the U.S., because the extent to which they felt they had fit in
with their workplace and community abroad might have influenced both their tendency to
develop intercultural friendships and their creativity (Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, & Erez,
2001; Wang, 2015). Specifically, participants responded to eight items such as “I fit with my
host company’s culture” and “I thought of where I lived in the U.S. as home” (seven-point Likert
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scale: 1 = very much disagree, 7 = very much agree; α = .89).
In models predicting non-entrepreneurs’ workplace innovation in their home country, we
further controlled for their current job embeddedness in their home country (e.g., “I fit with this
company’s culture” and “I think of the community where I live as home”; seven-point Likert
scale: 1 = very much disagree, 7 = very much agree; α = .90). This control variable was not
included in models predicting entrepreneurship because most of the entrepreneurs in our sample
did not work under an employer after returning to their home countries; as such, they did not
answer this question on the survey. On the other hand, in models predicting entrepreneurship, we
further included (1) a binary measure of whether the respondent had started a business prior to
working in the U.S. (1.9% of respondents) and (2) a measure of the respondent’s overall desire to
start a business prior to working in the U.S. (five-point Likert-type scale: 1 = not at all, 5 =
definitely). Because these two questions were only relevant to the entrepreneurs, we did not
include them as control variables in models predicting non-entrepreneurs’ workplace innovation.
Since all variables were self-reported, it is possible that our results suffered from
common method biases. To address this potential issue, we followed Podsakoff, MacKenzie,
Lee, and Podsakoff (2003), who recommend controlling for common method biases in survey
data using an unmeasured latent method factor. Thus, we loaded all of the survey-related (i.e.,
non-demographic) variables into a single factor to include as a control variable in our regression
models. Finally, because the survey data represent an international sample, we included a fixed-
effect for each of the respondents’ home countries to control for any country-specific
heterogeneity. The top five home countries represented in our sample were Germany (14.3%),
France (9.3%), China (8.2%), India (5.4%), and Japan (3.9%).
Results
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Descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations are displayed in Table 6.
Table 7 details the two logistic regression models predicting respondents’
entrepreneurship. As expected, contact frequency with American friends positively predicted
entrepreneurship—whether alone (Table 7 Model 1: B = .08, SE = .04, Wald = 4.67, p = .031) or
in the full model that accounted for all the control variables (Table 7 Model 2: B = .11, SE = .05,
Wald = 5.79, p = .016). There was no significant quadratic relationship between contact
frequency and entrepreneurship (B = .01, SE = .02, p = .65).
Table 8 presents the two linear regression models predicting non-entrepreneurs’
workplace innovation. Contact frequency with American friends positively predicted workplace
innovation—whether alone (Table 8 Model 1: B = .12, SE = .03, p < .001) or in the full model
(Table 8 Model 2: B = .09, SE = .03, p = .002). There was no significant quadratic relationship
between contact frequency and workplace innovation (B = .01, SE = .02, p = .58).
In addition, it is noteworthy that the length of work experience in the U.S. also positively
predicted both entrepreneurship (Table 7 Model 2: B = .22, SE = .08, Wald = 7.80, p = .005) and
non-entrepreneurs’ workplace innovation (Table 8 Model 2: B = .15, SE = .05, p = .004) in the
full models, replicating past findings (Godart et al., 2015; Maddux & Galinsky, 2009).
Discussion
Extending the first three studies, Study 4 demonstrated that the frequency of contact with
foreign friends positively predicted two organizationally meaningful creative outcomes—
entrepreneurship and workplace innovation. These findings highlight the applicability and
generalizability of our theoretical framework that the closeness of an intercultural social
relationship is a critical driver of creativity.
General Discussion
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The current research has discovered the creative benefits of close intercultural
relationships. Across multiple methodologies (longitudinal, experimental, and field studies),
diverse samples (MBA students, employees, and professional expatriate returnees), and both
laboratory and real-world measures of creativity, we found that close intercultural romantic
relationships and friendships predicted important creative outcomes. As a two-phase longitudinal
study, Study 1 found that MBA students who dated someone from another culture during their
program performed better on both divergent and convergent forms of creativity at Phase 2
(accounting for creative performance at Phase 1 and other control variables). Using an
experimental design, Study 2 revealed that reactivating a past intercultural dating experience led
to higher creativity than reactivating a past intra-cultural dating experience; importantly, this
effect was mediated by cultural learning. Comparing the duration versus the number of both
intercultural and intra-cultural romantic relationships, Study 3 found that only the duration of
intercultural relationships significantly predicted the ability of current employees to generate
creative names for marketing products. Extending the preceding findings to the “Big C”
creativity (Simonton, 1994), Study 4 found that professional repatriates’ frequency of contact
with American friends positively predicted both entrepreneurship and workplace innovation back
in their home countries.
Theoretical Contributions
The present work contributes to the literature in several important ways. The core of our
contribution is the integration of five separate literatures: culture, close relationships, creativity,
innovation, and entrepreneurship. We have connected these varied literatures with a simple yet
profound finding: Close intercultural relationships help spark creativity, innovation, and
entrepreneurial activities.
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Drawing upon the creative cognition approach (Finke et al., 1992; Smith et al., 1995), we
provide the first empirical evidence that intercultural romantic relationships and friendships can
enhance creativity by facilitating cultural learning. Whereas past research has focused on
experiences abroad, the present research examined the effects of intercultural social
relationships. By identifying intercultural romantic relationships and friendships as unique and
concrete multicultural activities that enhance creativity, we shed light on why experiences abroad
are conducive to creativity, and why certain individuals become more creative than others even
when exposed to the same foreign environment (Leung et al., 2008). Whether abroad or at home,
individuals may elevate their creativity by learning and integrating different cultural perspectives
via meaningful social relationships.
Second, we extend the emerging literature on the differential effects of deep versus broad
multicultural experiences (Cao et al., 2014; Godart et al., 2015, Lu et al., 2017) by demonstrating
that the duration and the frequency of contact of intercultural relationships positively predicted
creativity and entrepreneurship, whereas the number of intercultural relationships did not. Closer
intercultural relationships provide more opportunities for individuals to learn about another
culture at a profound level and to integrate it with their own culture (Godart et al., 2015; Maddux
et al., 2010; Maddux & Galinsky, 2009; Tadmor et al., 2012). By interacting with individuals
from other cultures at a deep level, people can self-expand by broadening their cultural
perspectives and identities (Aron & Aron, 1986; Hong et al., 2001), thereby producing creative
insights. Overall, the current findings are consistent with prior work showing that the depth of
foreign experiences is a stronger predictor of creativity than the breadth of those experiences
(Godart et al., 2015).
Third, in illustrating the creative merits of multicultural experiences, past studies (e.g.,
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Maddux & Galinsky, 2009) have mostly employed traditional cognitive tests (e.g., AUT, RAT,
insight problems), which may lack external validity. In addition to capturing creativity through
both divergent and convergent thinking tasks, we also demonstrated the effects of intercultural
relationships on entrepreneurship and workplace innovation—two real-world creative outcomes
critical to the field of industrial and organizational psychology. In doing so, we have identified
two more constructs shaped by multicultural experiences.
Practical Implications for Individuals
Due to the rise of globalization, multicultural experiences are increasingly valued by
companies and schools alike. As a result, an unprecedented number of employees and students
go abroad to discover insights into other cultures and develop new perspectives. Although
intercultural social relationships have been growing across the world, most international
employees and students still socialize with and date individuals from their home country (Trice,
2004). Because of their shared cultural background, it is often tempting and comforting for
expatriates to “stick together” with their cultural in-groups and speak in their mother tongues
(McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001)—whether running errands, completing group
assignments, attending social events, or touring the host country. Ironically, the soaring number
of expatriates makes it even easier for them to get by within their home-culture “comfort zone”,
which may explain why so many long-time residents in enclaves such as Chinatowns,
Koreatowns, Greektowns, little Havanas, or little Italies cannot speak the local language, let
alone develop close friendships or romantic relationships with individuals from the local culture
(Logan, Zhang, & Alba, 2002). Furthermore, because foreign living and working experiences are
often temporary, some individuals may be unmotivated to invest in intercultural relationships
that they expect will dissolve in the future (San Martin, Swaab, Sinaceur, & Vasiljevic, 2015).
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Against such backdrops, the present research offers a compelling reason for people to go
out of their comfort zone to develop meaningful and long-lasting relationships with individuals
from other cultures. While not everyone has the resources and opportunity to go abroad, they
could strive to develop meaningful intercultural relationships via meet-ups (e.g., language
exchange programs) within their home city. Importantly, the current findings suggest that people
cannot simply “collect” intercultural relationships at a superficial level, but instead must engage
in cultural learning at a deep level. When in an intercultural relationship, an individual should
not eschew cultural differences but rather embrace them, because such differences enable one to
discern and learn the underlying assumptions and values of both the foreign culture and the home
culture (Cheng & Leung, 2013; Leung & Chiu, 2010). Without close social interactions, it can be
difficult for individuals to juxtapose and synthesize different cultural perspectives to achieve
cultural learning and produce creative insights.
Practical Implications for Organizations
How can organizations capture the potential creative benefits (e.g., workplace innovation,
entrepreneurship) afforded by close intercultural relationships? We propose a two-step process to
cultivate intercultural relationships that are close.
To facilitate intercultural relationships, the first step for organizations is to cultivate an
intercultural environment by opening the door to individuals from different cultures. For
example, to enhance cultural diversity in the workplace, organizations could develop more
exchange programs between offices in different countries. In addition, organizations could
provide more financial and logistical support for international employees in the challenging
process of obtaining work visas and residency permits. From a public policy perspective, the
U.S. remains the only developed country that taxes citizens on income earned abroad (Newlove,
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2016), which can deter them from seeking foreign experiences. Thus, making organizational,
visa, and taxation policies more conducive to intercultural exchanges may be one way to foster
cultural diversity in the workplace.
Having ensured an adequate level of cultural diversity for intercultural interactions, the
second step for organizations is to nurture close relationships among employees from different
cultures. When intercultural relationships are mismanaged, they can breed discomfort, mistrust,
and conflict due to cultural barriers and differences (Montalvo & Reynal-Querol, 2005; Putnam,
2007), which explains why people generally favor intra-cultural romantic relationships and
friendships in the first place (McPherson et al., 2001; Titzmann & Silbereisen 2009). Instead of
forcing international employees to suppress their cultural values and assimilate to the host
culture, organizations could encourage inclusive multiculturalism (Galinsky et al., 2015) by
highlighting the benefits of cultural differences for both cultural in-groups and out-groups
(Jansen, Otten, & van der Zee, 2015). Firms could facilitate deep intercultural relationships
through shared activities, both inside and outside the workplace. At work, managers could assign
foreign and domestic employees to work together on tasks that require cooperation, thereby
reducing intergroup bias and barriers (Gaertner, Mann, Dovidio, Murrell, & Pomare, 1990).
Outside of work, language exchange programs not only allow both parties to improve language
skills, but also bring them closer through self-disclosure and mutual support. As they transition
from mere colleagues to closer friends, employees will have more opportunities to engage in
cultural learning at a deep level, thereby sparking creative insights.
Limitations and Future Directions
As one of the first attempts to understand the consequences of intercultural social
relationships, the current work has several limitations that can stimulate future research.
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Although three of our studies documented positive effects of intercultural romantic relationships
on creativity across different methods and population samples, we only conducted one study on
the effects of intercultural friendships. Thus, more research is needed to triangulate on the
creative benefits of close intercultural friendships. Second, since only one of our studies
provided evidence for the mediating role of cultural learning, future research should study this
and other potential mediators in greater depth, while also exploring potential moderators. For
example, the cultural distance between two countries may moderate the positive effect of close
intercultural relationships on creativity, with close intercultural relationships being particularly
conducive to cultural learning and creativity if the two individuals are from countries with
greater cultural distance (e.g., Canada and China) versus less cultural distance (e.g., Canada and
the U.S.) (Dragoni et al., 2014).
Future research could also explore the effects of intercultural relationships on other
important social and psychological outcomes. In light of the recent research on multicultural
experiences, socializing with a large number of friends from diverse cultures may reduce
intergroup bias (Tadmor, Hong, Chao, Wiruchnipawan, & Wang, 2012), heighten generalized
trust (Cao et al., 2014), and increase tolerance of non-normative behaviors (Kinias, Kim,
Hafenbrack, & Lee, 2014). On the other hand, a broad network of intercultural friendships may
provide weaker surveillance of the self (Brass, Butterfield, & Skaggs, 1998) and also foster
moral relativism (Lu et al., 2017), both of which could increase unethical behaviors. Such
questions await future investigations.
Conclusion
The current research demonstrates that close intercultural relationships can foster
creativity, workplace innovation, and entrepreneurship. Going out with a close friend or romantic
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partner from a foreign culture can help people “go out” of the box and into a creative frame of
mind.
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Table 1
Descriptive Statistics and Correlations (Study 1)
Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
1. Intercultural dating (1 = yes) 0.22 0.42
2. T1 composite creativity score 0.00 0.73 .00
3. T2 composite creativity score 0.00 0.68 .24 .49
4. T1 AUT fluency 8.92 3.25 -.03 .90 .46
5. T2 AUT fluency 9.67 3.36 .18 .40 .88 .44
6. T1 AUT flexibility 6.13 1.73 -.17 .83 .36 .80 .35
7. T2 AUT flexibility 6.92 2.13 .10 .44 .85 .46 .88 .42
8. T1 AUT novelty 14.72 6.13 -.02 .92 .52 .95 .47 .83 .50
9. T2 AUT novelty 19.40 7.31 .14 .51 .90 .51 .93 .41 .90 .57
10. T1 RAT 2.08 1.47 .15 .54 .30 .31 .13 .24 .12 .32 .20
11. T2 RAT 1.92 1.24 .29 .15 .34 .09 .01 -.02 .01 .10 .05 .43
12. T1 insight problem 0.47 0.50 .08 .47 .14 .21 .09 .17 .10 .25 .17 .09 -.04
13. T2 insight problem 0.29 0.46 .10 .12 .40 .05 .11 .04 .05 .09 .13 .10 .04 .16
14. Openness to experience 3.90 0.65 -.02 .07 -.10 .02 -.09 -.06 -.13 .04 -.08 .07 -.11 .18 .09
15. Conscientiousness 3.48 0.93 .10 -.12 .01 -.06 .03 -.18 -.02 -.08 .00 .03 .06 -.15 -.04 -.05
16. Extraversion 3.57 0.95 -.03 .13 -.04 .09 -.06 .15 .00 .12 -.05 .03 .05 .06 -.06 .21 -.10
17. Agreeableness 3.02 0.64 .07 .01 .13 .04 .08 .02 .09 -.01 .09 -.01 .03 .02 .14 -.07 -.10 -.01
18. Emotional stability 3.38 0.86 -.20 .10 .01 .07 -.03 .11 .03 .02 .02 .16 -.08 .00 .08 -.01 -.02 -.09 .21
19. Age 28.63 2.08 -.19 -.06 .05 -.05 .04 -.02 .05 -.01 .06 -.11 -.08 -.04 .11 .13 -.18 -.03 -.15 -.02
20. Gender (1 = male, female = 0) 0.72 0.45 -.25 .16 .09 .15 .01 .18 .13 .14 .05 -.06 -.08 .18 .18 -.02 -.16 .03 .00 .18 .19
21. Colorblind beliefs 3.38 0.90 -.11 -.03 .21 -.03 .17 -.11 .15 .03 .22 .07 .07 -.06 .08 .10 .22 .06 -.06 -.03 .21 -.17
22. Domestic student (1 = yes) 0.11 0.31 -.12 -.08 -.18 .01 -.18 .02 -.15 -.05 -.19 -.14 -.10 -.15 .03 -.15 -.04 -.11 .06 .05 .03 .16 -.16
23. Pre-MBA salary (€1,000) 67.26 34.33 -.05 .21 .13 .14 .03 .18 .07 .14 .07 .25 .16 .04 .11 .08 .07 .18 .05 -.01 .10 .13 -.06 -.01
24. GPA 3.27 0.38 .05 .29 .07 .24 .06 .23 .09 .23 .12 .15 -.03 .20 -.01 -.02 .09 -.05 -.11 .18 -.14 .18 -.17 .00 .25
Note. | r | larger than .19 are significant at p < .05; | r | larger than .25 are significant at p < .01.
46
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Table 2
Linear Regression Analyses on the Composite Creativity Score at T2 (Study 1)
Variables Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4
Composite creativity score at T1 0.45***
(0.08)
0.45***
(0.08)
0.44***
(0.08)
0.46***
(0.07)
   
Intercultural dating (1 = yes) 0.39** (0.13) 0.36** (0.14) 0.48***
(0.14) 0.43** (0.13)
Openness to experience -0.10 (0.09) -0.16 (0.09)
Conscientiousness 0.02 (0.06) 0.00 (0.06)
Extraversion -0.05 (0.06) -0.08 (0.06)
Agreeableness 0.11 (0.09) 0.13 (0.09)
Emotional stability -0.02 (0.07) 0.01 (0.07)
Age 0.04 (0.03)
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) 0.13 (0.14)
Colorblind beliefs 0.18* (0.07) 0.19** (0.06)
Domestic student (1 = yes) -0.26 (0.17)
Pre-MBA salary (€1,000) 0.00 (0.00)
GPA -0.15 (0.16)
 
R20.29 0.31 0.43 0.35
Overall F 21.86*** 6.45*** 5.13*** 19.16***
Note. Unstandardized regression coefficients are displayed, with standard errors in parentheses.
p < 0.10. * p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01. *** p < 0.001.
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Table 3
Regression Analyses on Individual Creativity Measures (AUT, RAT, & Insight Problem) at T2 (Study 1)
Variables AUT Fluency AUT Flexibility AUT Novelty RAT Insight Problem
B Wald Statistic Exp(B)
Creativity measures at T1 0.47*** (0.10) 0.59***
(0.12)
0.64***
(0.10)
0.33***
(0.09) 0.60 (0.53) 1.28 1.82
Intercultural dating (1 = yes) 1.58* (0.77) 1.13* (0.49) 3.00* (1.50) 0.80** (0.30) 1.15
(0.62) 3.42 3.16
Openness to experience -0.75 (0.48) -0.47 (0.31) -1.50 (0.93) -0.25 (0.18) 0.37 (0.40) 0.89 1.45
Conscientiousness 0.05 (0.35) 0.03 (0.22) -0.05 (0.67) -0.01 (0.13)
-0.08
(0.28) 0.09 0.92
Extraversion -0.37 (0.33) -0.15 (0.21) -0.97 (0.64) 0.05 (0.12)
-0.34
(0.27) 1.66 0.71
Agreeableness 0.46 (0.51) 0.29 (0.32) 1.34 (0.98) -0.04 (0.19) 0.55 (0.40) 1.91 1.74
Emotional stability -0.10 (0.39) 0.06 (0.25) 0.31 (0.76) -0.09 (0.15) 0.25 (0.32) 0.61 1.29
Age 0.19 (0.17) 0.06 (0.11) 0.33 (0.32) -0.01 (0.06) 0.10 (0.14) 0.54 1.11
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) -0.02 (0.75) 0.49 (0.48) 0.25 (1.46) 0.17 (0.28) 1.01 (0.67) 2.25 2.73
Colorblind beliefs 0.61 (0.38) 0.51* (0.24) 1.78* (0.73) 0.05 (0.14) 0.43 (0.31) 1.92 1.53
Domestic student (1 = yes) -1.82 (0.96) -1.04 (0.61) -3.76* (1.86) -0.03 (0.36) 0.43 (0.78) 0.31 1.54
Pre-MBA salary (€1,000) -0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.01) 0.00 (0.02) 0.00 (0.00) 0.01 (0.01) 1.43 1.01
GPA -0.01 (0.91) -0.23 (0.58) 0.56 (1.77) -0.47 (0.34)
-0.78
(0.73) 1.14 0.46
       
R20.32 0.32 0.45 0.30
Overall F 3.19*** 3.10*** 5.45*** 2.81**
-2 Log likelihood 105.72
Nagelkerke R20.22
Note. Unstandardized regression coefficients are displayed, with standard errors in parentheses.
p < 0.10. * p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01. *** p < 0.001.
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Table 4
Descriptive Statistics and Correlations (Study 3)
Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1. Creativity 3.33 2.36
2. Duration of intercultural relationships 7.62
22.2
7 .23
3. Number of intercultural relationships 0.47 0.81 .14 .56
4. Duration of intra-cultural relationships 111.1
0
99.2
2
-.1
3
-.0
6
-.0
4
5. Number of intra-cultural relationships 4.07 3.03
-.1
5 .07 .04 .38
6. Openness to experience 5.26 1.25
-.1
0
-.0
2 .05 .08 .21
7. Conscientiousness 5.59 1.12 .00
-.0
9
-.1
1 .08 .08 .18
8. Extraversion 3.89 1.60 .04
-.0
2 .05
-.0
1 .04 .23
-.0
2
9. Agreeableness 5.38 1.18 .05 .09
-.0
2 .06 .20 .39 .37 .09
10. Emotional stability 4.98 1.35 .01
-.0
3
-.0
3 .14 .19 .17 .49 .26 .41
11. Age 36.42
10.4
7 .00
-.0
2 .07 .43 .30 .00 .09 .06 .12 .18
12. Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) 0.46 0.50
-.0
7 .08 .12
-.1
4 .06
-.0
6 .00 .14
-.1
3 .17 .00
13. Sexuality (1 = heterosexual, 0 = other) 0.93 0.26 .06 .00 .13
-.0
9 .07
-.3
0
-.1
1
-.0
6
-.1
0
-.0
7
-.0
1 .15
14. Bicultural (1 = bicultural, 0 = monocultural) 0.06 0.25 .09 .15 .35 .01 .09
-.0
4 .01 .05 .04 .00 .02 .05
.
07
15. College degree or higher 0.66 0.48 .06 .19 .23
-.0
7 .02 .08
-.0
4 .14 .02 .00 .05
-.0
3
.
15 .00
16. Languages 1.18 0.48 .09 .19 .32
-.1
8
-.1
2
-.0
8
-.0
2 .02
-.0
8
-.1
1
-.1
7
-.0
8
.
04 .51 .17
17. Salary ($1,000) 48.90
59.4
6 .02
-.0
2 .05 .20 .09 .03 .05 .18 .03 .12 .09 .08
.
10
-.0
1
-.0
2
-.0
1
Note. | r | larger than .16 are significant at p < .05; | r | larger than .22 are significant at p < .01.
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Table 5
Linear Regression Analyses on the Creativity (Study 3)
Variables Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4
Duration of intercultural relationships 0.03** (0.01) 0.02*
(0.01)
0.02*
(0.01) 0.03* (0.01)
Number of intercultural relationships 0.05 (0.29) 0.10 (0.30) -0.02 (0.34)
Duration of intra-cultural relationships -0.00 (0.00) -0.00 (0.00) -0.00 (0.00)
Number of intra-cultural relationships -0.12 (0.07) -0.12 (0.07)
-0.13
(0.08)
Openness to experience -0.21 (0.18) -0.14 (0.20)
Conscientiousness 0.04 (0.21) 0.04 (0.21)
Extraversion 0.10 (0.13) 0.09 (0.14)
Agreeableness 0.18 (0.20) 0.08 (0.21)
Emotional stability 0.02 (0.18) 0.06 (0.19)
Age 0.02 (0.02)
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) -0.58 (0.44)
Sexuality (1 = heterosexual, 0 = other) 0.59 (0.87)
Bicultural (1 = bicultural, 0 = monocultural) 0.78 (1.01)
College degree or higher -0.03 (0.45)
Languages -0.19 (0.52)
Salary ($1,000) 0.00 (0.00)
R20.05 0.09 0.10 0.12
Overall F7.97** 3.18* 1.64 1.10
Note. N = 141. Unstandardized regression coefficients are displayed, with standard errors in parentheses.
p < 0.10. * p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01. *** p < 0.001.
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Table 6
Descriptive Statistics and Correlations (Study 4)
Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1. Frequency of contact with American friends 2.98 1.60
2. Became an entrepreneur after return (1 =
yes) 0.15 0.35 .05
3. Workplace innovation 4.87 1.48 .16 .08
4. Common method factor 0.00 1.08 .20 .00 .14
5. Age 32.20 6.53 -.18 .07 .06 -.06
6. Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) 0.64 0.48 -.01 .01 .00 .02 .08
7. Some undergraduate (1 = yes) 0.35 0.48 -.04 .10 -.03 .02 .17 -.05
8. Bachelor’s degree (1 = yes) 0.43 0.50 .09 -.06 .07 .01 -.24 -.01 -.62
9. Graduate degree (1 = yes) 0.22 0.42 -.06 -.05 -.06 -.03 .09 .06 -.40 -.47
10. Cultural intelligence 6.09 0.68 .16 .10 .13 .45 -.09 -.10 .01 .00 -.01
11. Days since return to home country 1585.70 1223.51 -.24 .18 -.02 -.04 .53 -.05 .42 -.28 -.15 .03
12. Days lived in the U.S. 305.83 175.46 .05 .14 .10 .02 .25 -.02 .35 -.22 -.15 .06 .32
13. Job embeddedness in the U.S. 5.66 0.84 .19 -.03 .13 .96 -.03 .04 .01 .02 -.03 .28 -.05 .02
14. Job embeddedness in home country 5.41 0.87 .07 .08 .10 .23 .00 .02 -.01 .04 -.04 .13 .01 .05 .23
15. Prior entrepreneurial desire 2.48 1.37 .10 .24 .11 .01 -.13 .08 .08 -.01 -.08 .13 -.06 -.01 .00 .02
16. Prior entrepreneurial experience 0.02 0.14 -.03 .13 .09 .03 .02 .04 .02 -.03 .01 .00 -.06 -.01 .03 .04 .29
Note. | r | larger than .05 are significant at p < .05; | r | larger than .08 are significant at p < .01.
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Table 7
Logistic Regression Analyses on the Likelihood of Becoming an Entrepreneur after Return (Study 4)
Variables Model 1 Model 2
Frequency of contact with American friends 0.08* (0.04) 0.11* (0.05)
Common method factor -0.12*
(0.05) 0.09 (0.35)
Age 0.02 (0.01)
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) 0.08 (0.16)
Education: graduate degree 0.22 (0.20)
Education: some undergraduate -0.41* (0.18)
Cultural intelligence 0.08 (0.15)
Days since return to home country 0.56***
(0.10)
Days lived in the U.S. 0.22** (0.08)
Job embeddedness in the U.S. -0.36 (0.42)
Prior entrepreneurial desire 0.54***
(0.05)
Prior entrepreneurial experience 0.63 (0.39)
Home country fixed effects Included
-2 Log likelihood -920.68 -718.45
Nagelkerke R20.11 0.29
N (respondents) 2226 2226
Note. Unstandardized regression coefficients are displayed, with standard errors in parentheses.
“Bachelor’s degree” is the reference category for education.
See Table S1 for detailed statistics of home country fixed effects.
* p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01. *** p < 0.001.
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Table 8
Linear Regression Analyses on Non-Entrepreneurs’ Workplace Innovation (Study 4)
Variables Model 1 Model 2
Frequency of contact with American friends 0.12***
(0.03)
0.09**
(0.03)
Common method factor 0.18***
(0.04) 0.40 (0.23)
Age 0.03**
(0.01)
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) 0.10 (0.10)
Education: graduate degree -0.16 (0.12)
Education: some undergraduate -0.22 (0.12)
Cultural intelligence 0.00 (0.10)
Days since return to home country -0.10 (0.06)
Days lived in the US 0.15**
(0.05)
Job embeddedness in the U.S. -0.33 (0.28)
Job embeddedness in home country 0.07 (0.05)
Home country fixed effects Included
R20.04 0.18
Overall F22.83*** 2.32***
N (respondents) 1143 1138
Note. Unstandardized regression coefficients are displayed, with standard errors in parentheses.
“Bachelor’s degree” is the reference category for education.
See Table S2 for detailed statistics of home country fixed effects.
p < 0.10. * p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01. *** p < 0.001.
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Appendix A. Study 1 Remote Associates Test
Phase 1
Word 1 Word 2 Word 3 Solution
Blank White Lines Paper
Thread Pine Pain Needle
Envy Golf Beans Green
Barrel Root Belly Beer
Pure Blue Fall Water
Phase 2
Word 1 Word 2 Word 3 Solution
Magic Plush Floor Carpet
Stop Petty Sneak Thief
Chocolate Fortune Tin Cookie
Broken Clear Eye Glass
Chamber Staff Box Music
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Appendix B. 9-Dot Puzzle
Below are nine dots. Your challenge is to draw four straight lines that connect all of the dots
without picking your pen off the paper. You can start from any position and draw the lines one
after the other, but you cannot lift up your pen.
Solution:
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Appendix C. Coin Puzzle
How can you move only one coin to make two rows (in any direction) of four coins each?
Solution: Place the top (or bottom) coin on top of the coin in the middle.
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CLOSE INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS SPARK CREATIVITY
Appendix D. Study 2 Remote Associates Test
Word 1 Word 2 Word 3 Solution
Blank White Lines Paper
Magic Red Floor Carpet
Thread Pine Magnetic Needle
Stop Petty Sneak Thief
Envy Golf Beans Green
Chocolate Fortune Tin Cookie
Barrel Root Belly Beer
Broken Clear Eye Glass
Gun Salt Fall Water
Chamber Staff Box Music
Sharp Blue Cake Cheese
Hall Car Swimming Pool
Square Cardboard Lunch Box
High Book Foot Note
Gold Stool Tender Bar
57
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