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Abstract

Many practices aimed at cultivating multicultural competence in educational and organizational settings (e.g., exchange programs, diversity education in college, diversity management at work) assume that multicultural experience fosters creativity. In line with this assumption, the research reported in this article is the first to empirically demonstrate that exposure to multiple cultures in and of itself can enhance creativity. Overall, the authors found that extensiveness of multicultural experiences was positively related to both creative performance (insight learning, remote association, and idea generation) and creativity-supporting cognitive processes (retrieval of unconventional knowledge, recruitment of ideas from unfamiliar cultures for creative idea expansion). Furthermore, their studies showed that the serendipitous creative benefits resulting from multicultural experiences may depend on the extent to which individuals open themselves to foreign cultures, and that creativity is facilitated in contexts that deemphasize the need for firm answers or existential concerns. The authors discuss the implications of their findings for promoting creativity in increasingly global learning and work environments.
Multicultural Experience Enhances Creativity
The When and How
Angela Ka-yee Leung Singapore Management University
William W. Maddux INSEAD
Adam D. Galinsky Northwestern University
Chi-yue Chiu University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Many practices aimed at cultivating multicultural compe-
tence in educational and organizational settings (e.g., ex-
change programs, diversity education in college, diversity
management at work) assume that multicultural experience
fosters creativity. In line with this assumption, the research
reported in this article is the first to empirically demon-
strate that exposure to multiple cultures in and of itself can
enhance creativity. Overall, the authors found that exten-
siveness of multicultural experiences was positively related
to both creative performance (insight learning, remote
association, and idea generation) and creativity-support-
ing cognitive processes (retrieval of unconventional knowl-
edge, recruitment of ideas from unfamiliar cultures for
creative idea expansion). Furthermore, their studies
showed that the serendipitous creative benefits resulting
from multicultural experiences may depend on the extent to
which individuals open themselves to foreign cultures, and
that creativity is facilitated in contexts that deemphasize
the need for firm answers or existential concerns. The
authors discuss the implications of their findings for pro-
moting creativity in increasingly global learning and work
environments.
Keywords: multicultural experience(s), creativity, culture,
cognition
Writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong
and the one in which they live really.
—Gertrude Stein
T
o Gertrude Stein, bicultural experiences were neces-
sary for writers at both the artistic and the practical
levels: Not only do experiences in foreign countries
allow writers a critical abstract and physical distance from
the subjects they write about, but immersion in foreign
environments also provides an important source of inspi-
ration, a multicultural muse for the craft of creation.
Creativity is perhaps just as valuable for psychologists
as it is for writers; indeed, it is arguably the driving force
in determining scholarly impact. When Sternberg and Gor-
deeva (1996) asked 252 research psychologists what made
a psychology article influential, the items that were rated as
most important centered around creativity and novelty:
making an obvious contribution to psychological knowl-
edge, adding something new and substantial; presenting a
useful new theory; generating new research; and providing
new and exciting ideas (emphasis added).
Beyond creativity, psychologists also generally agree
on the importance of multicultural awareness and compe-
tence, especially given the rapid increase in global inter-
connectedness. In the 1999 National Multicultural Confer-
ence and Summit hosted by the American Psychological
Association, the 550 attendants unanimously agreed on the
importance of implementing multicultural competence in
all psychological endeavors and of making multicultural
competence a defining feature of psychological practice,
education, training, and research (Sue, Bingham, Porche-
Burke, & Vasquez, 1999). Although current discussion on
multiculturalism focuses primarily on issues related to eth-
nic diversity in the United States, multicultural psychology
concerns all aspects of human behavior that occur when
people from two or more cultural backgrounds encounter
each other (Chiu, in press). In the present article, we define
culture as a set of loosely organized ideas and practices
produced and reproduced by a network of interconnected
individuals (Chiu & Hong, 2007), and we use the term
multicultural experience to refer to all direct and indirect
experiences of encountering or interacting with the ele-
ments and/or members of foreign cultures.
Angela Ka-yee Leung, School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management
University; William W. Maddux, Department of Organizational Behavior,
INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France; Adam D. Galinsky, Department of Man-
agement and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwest-
ern University; Chi-yue Chiu, Department of Psychology, University of
Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
Preparation of this article was supported by a grant from the Dispute
Resolution Research Center at the Kellogg School of Management, North-
western University, to William W. Maddux; by an INSEAD Research &
Development grant to William W. Maddux; and by Research Grant HKU
7439/05H awarded to Chi-yue Chiu by the Research Grant Council, Hong
Kong Special Administrative Region, China.
We wish to thank Elizabeth Anez, Katianna Branecki, Steven Chung,
Oliwier Dziaolkowiec, Wilbert Law, and Jeong Hae Bae for their assis-
tance in data collection.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to An-
gela Ka-yee Leung, School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management
University, Level 4, 90 Stamford Road, Singapore 178903, or to William
W. Maddux, INSEAD, Organisational Behaviour Area, Boulevard de
Constance, 77305 Fontainebleau, France. E-mail: angelaleung@smu.edu.sg
or william.maddux@insead.edu
169April 2008
American Psychologist
Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association 0003-066X/08/$12.00
Vol. 63, No. 3, 169 –181 DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.3.169
It is important to note that many current practices in
educational and organizational settings are based on the
assumption that multicultural experience fosters creativity,
but this hypothesized link between multicultural experi-
ence and creativity is as yet untested (Bassett-Jones, 2005;
Maehr & Yamaguchi, 2001). These practices include ex-
change programs, sabbaticals and temporary job transfers,
diversity education programs in colleges, promotion of
cultural diversity in the classroom, and implementation of
diversity management programs in organizations. Fortu-
nately, the evidence reviewed in the present article should
reassure supporters of these practices that multicultural
experience does indeed confer distinct beneficial effects on
creative performance. Aside from providing empirical jus-
tifications for these practices, research on the relationship
between multicultural experience and creativity is expected
to answer the following questions: (a) What types of mul-
ticultural experience are needed for enhanced creative per-
formance? (b) How does multicultural experience benefit
creativity? (c) Who is most likely to realize the creative
potential of having multicultural experience? and (d) When
are the creative benefits of multicultural experience most
likely to surface?
In recent years, research from multiple independent
laboratories on three continents—the University of Illinois
and Northwestern University in the United States, INSEAD
in France, and Singapore Management University in Sin-
gapore— has examined these issues systematically and has
provided some initial answers to these questions. Because
both multicultural experience and creativity are elusive
constructs and researchers have not agreed on the best ways
to measure them (see Chiu & Hong, 2005; Glover, Ron-
ning, & Reynolds, 1989), our research reviewed in the
present article takes an eclectic, multimethod approach to
measuring both multicultural experience and creativity.
Multicultural experience was operationalized in terms of
the amount of time living abroad, extensiveness of inter-
actions with foreign cultures (family immigration history,
bilingualism, interactions with people from different na-
tional or ethnic backgrounds), and exposure to a foreign
culture in a laboratory experiment. Measurements of cre-
ativity included measures of both performance and creativ-
ity-supporting cognitive processes. For measures of cre-
ative performance, we assessed people’s creative insight in
problem-solving tasks, generation of remote but effective
associations, and production of creative stories and diver-
gent ideas. For measures of creativity-supporting cognitive
processes, we assessed people’s tendency to spontaneously
access unconventional or normatively inaccessible ideas
and to recruit ideas from foreign cultures in an idea sam-
pling task.
As an overview of the major conclusions, the results
of our investigation show that (a) multicultural experience
increases creative performance and the use of some cre-
ativity-supporting cognitive processes (e.g., recruitment of
foreign ideas and retrieval of unconventional knowledge);
(b) the connection between multicultural experience and
creativity is most apparent when individuals have had the
experience of deeply immersing themselves in foreign
countries (such as living in a foreign country rather than
other more cursory foreign experiences, such as traveling
abroad); (c) individual differences that account for whether
people adapt and open themselves to foreign cultures and
actively think about and compare the differences they en-
counter between their home culture and the foreign culture
can boost the creative benefits of multicultural experience;
and (d) a weaker relationship between multicultural expe-
rience and creativity emerges in contexts that require a
need for firm answers or adherence to conventional knowl-
edge.
Theoretical Background
What Is Creativity?
Creativity is typically defined as the process of bring-
ing into being something that is both novel and useful
(Sawyer, 2006; Sternberg & O’Hara, 1999; see also Am-
abile, 1996). The creative process is often a mysterious
phenomenon, with sudden insights seeming to work at an
unconscious and inaccessible level (Schooler & Melcher,
1994). The magical “aha” moment of discovery, the point
at which an idea leaps into consciousness, is part of what
makes creativity seem sudden, without logic, and elusive.
Creativity often springs forth in places far removed
from the domain for which the idea is appropriate. A recent
television commercial, which harkens back to the Eureka
moment that Archimedes had while easing into his nightly
bath, shows executives of a company squeezing into a
shower for a meeting because that is where the boss has his
best ideas. Many of the Greek philosophers purposely
discussed ideas during walks in nature, and European phys-
icists had many of their most influential ideas while climb-
ing mountains and looking at stars (Csikszentmihalyi,
Angela
Ka-yee Leung
170 April 2008
American Psychologist
1996). Creativity can even occur during sleep: The Aus-
trian composer Anton Bruckner said that a friend whistled
the opening theme for his most popular symphony, Sym-
phony no. 7 in E major, to him in a dream; he immediately
woke up and wrote the melody down.
Creativity may also seem fickle and fleeting. The
English composer Edward Elgar wrote all of his master-
pieces after falling in love with and marrying one of his
piano students. After she died, he did not compose again. In
some disciplines, such as mathematics and physics, creativ-
ity is thought to have a remarkably short half-life; a phys-
icist’s big ideas are thought to come by age 30 or not at all
(Sawyer, 2006). Some writers, such as Margaret Mitchell
(Gone with the Wind) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking-
bird), had but a single magnum opus in them, whereas
others, such as Ernest Hemingway and William Shake-
speare, seemed to produce masterpiece after masterpiece.
Because of its apparent unpredictability and fickle-
ness, creativity may seem difficult to study scientifically
and systematically. However, the psychological literature
now boasts a wealth of evidence delineating the psycho-
logical factors that facilitate creativity; elements of person-
ality, affect, cognition, and motivation can either facilitate
or impair creativity (see Amabile, 1996; Csikszentmihalyi,
1996; Sawyer, 2006). For example, personality studies
have demonstrated that creative people tend to be noncon-
forming, independent, intrinsically motivated, open to new
experiences, and risk seeking (for reviews, see Simonton,
2000, 2003). Large-scale studies and meta-analyses have
found that intelligence, tolerance of ambiguity, self-confi-
dence, and cognitive flexibility also tend to be found in
creative people (Feist, 1998; MacKinnon, 1978).
In addition to personality factors, a number of contex-
tual factors related to motivation, cognition, and affect have
been shown to facilitate creativity. Individuals who pursue
tasks for intrinsic rather than extrinsic purposes show en-
hanced creativity (Amabile, 1985, 1996; Amabile, Hennes-
sey, & Grossman, 1986; Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996;
Hennessey & Amabile, 1998). A distant future focus, com-
pared to a near future focus, has been shown to lead to
more creative negotiation outcomes (Okhuysen, Galinsky,
& Uptigrove, 2003) and to enhanced creative insight (Fo¨r-
ster, Friedman, & Liberman, 2004). Focusing on potential
gains rather than losses increases the accessibility of un-
conventional ideas and thus enhances fluency in generating
creative ideas (Friedman & Fo¨rster, 2001; Lam & Chiu,
2002). Finally, creativity seems to flourish when people are
in positive or neutral affective states rather than negative
affective states (Amabile, Barsade, Mueller, & Staw, 2005;
Fredrickson, 2001; Fong, 2006), a finding that belies the
stereotype of the “starving artist.”
The Creative Cognition Approach
Recently, a scientific approach to studying creativity—the
creative cognition approach—was proposed for under-
standing and specifying the cognitive processes that pro-
duce creative ideas (Amabile, 1996; Bink & Marsh, 2000;
Finke, Ward, & Smith, 1992; Runco & Chand, 1995; Wan
& Chiu, 2002). The central argument of this approach is
that creative processes are not much different from those
cognitive processes that produce our everyday mundane
activities. According to this view, every person has the
potential to become creative as long as he or she effectively
utilizes ordinary cognitive processes to produce extraordi-
nary creative outcomes (Finke et al., 1992; T. B. Ward,
Smith, & Vaid, 1997; Weisberg, 1993). Specifically, the
creative cognition approach identifies two kinds of cogni-
tive processes implicated in creative thinking—generative
processes and exploratory processes (Finke et al., 1992).
First, people actively retrieve or seek out relevant informa-
tion to generate candidate ideas with differing creative
potential (the generative processes). Next, they scrutinize
these candidate ideas to determine which ones should re-
ceive further processing, such as modification, elaboration,
and transformation (the explorative processes).
One strategy that makes effective use of generative
processes is conceptual expansion, which takes place when
attributes of seemingly irrelevant concepts are added to an
existing concept to extend its conceptual boundary (Hamp-
ton, 1987; Wan & Chiu, 2002; T. B. Ward, Patterson,
Sifonis, Dodds, & Saunders, 2002; T. B. Ward et al., 1997).
In psychology, researchers may create new instances of an
old construct by applying and integrating ideas from an-
other theory. For instance, Chen and Andersen (1999) shed
new light on the psychoanalytical construct of transference
(the unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to
another) by reinterpreting it from a social-cognitive per-
spective, positing that transference occurs when an evalu-
ation of a new person is assimilated into an activated
representation of a significant other. Given that the expan-
sion of an idea with the use of previously separate ideas
seems to be crucial to human creativity, in this article we
build off the creative cognition approach to understand
William W.
Maddux
171April 2008
American Psychologist
when and why multicultural experience may enhance cre-
ativity.
Multicultural Experience and Creativity
Culture is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it
consists of a set of conventionalized learned routines that
help individuals in a society to coordinate their social
behaviors (Chiu & Hong, 2006). On the other hand, when
an individual is immersed in and exposed to only one
culture, the learned routines and conventional knowledge
of that culture may limit his or her creative conceptual
expansion. Prior knowledge and highly accessible exem-
plars are a major constraint on imagination and creative
conceptual expansion (T. B. Ward, 1994). For instance,
when people generate exemplars in a novel conceptual
domain (e.g., animals on the planet Mars), even the most
creative examples resemble highly accessible exemplars
(e.g., animals on Earth with eyes and legs or known science
fiction exemplars; see Kray, Galinsky, & Wong, 2006;
Rubin & Kontis, 1983; T. B. Ward, 1994; T. B. Ward et al.,
2002). To the extent that culture consists of a set of pre-
existing, routinized, and chronically accessible ideas, it
may limit the generation of creative thoughts.
Multicultural experience is also a double-edged
sword. When individuals encounter a foreign environment,
they may experience culture shock, feeling anxious and
disoriented in the absence of the familiar—the language,
the food, the behavioral norms. These familiar things peo-
ple typically take for granted can suddenly become lost and
inaccessible when people are immersed in a foreign culture
(C. Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001). Although culture
shock has its dark side, once the initial, difficult adaptation
stages have passed, it can also provide a great opportunity
for acquiring new perspectives to approaching various life
tasks and learning new ways of thinking.
Whereas culture may constrain creativity, multicul-
tural experience may foster the creative expansion of ideas.
For example, there is the stereotype of the expatriate artist
whose brilliant insights emerge only when settled in a
foreign land, and there seems to be at least some kernel of
truth to this stereotype, as history is ripe with examples of
artists who, at some point in their careers, lived abroad or
created their masterworks in a foreign country. Thus, we
hypothesize that multicultural experiences can contribute to
creative expansion in at least five ways.
First, people learn new ideas and concepts from mul-
ticultural experiences. Through multicultural experiences,
people are also exposed to a range of behavioral and
cognitive scripts for situations and problems. These new
ideas, concepts, and scripts can be the inputs for the cre-
ative expansion processes because the more new ideas
people have, the more likely they are to come up with novel
combinations (Weisberg, 1999).
Second, multicultural living experience may allow
people to recognize that the same form, or surface behav-
ior, has different functions and implications. For example,
in some cultures (e.g., China, Jordan), leaving food on your
plate at a host’s house is a sign of appreciation, implying
that the host has given you enough to eat. In other countries
(e.g., Indonesia), the same behavior may be taken as an
insult, a condemnation of the quality of the meal. Those
with experience living in foreign countries should be more
likely to see the same form (food leftover on a plate, a
smile, a bow) as having dynamic functions and multiple
possible meanings (Chiu & Hong, 2006; Galinsky, Mad-
dux, & Ku, 2006).
Third, although culture’s established conceptions and
conventions provide its members with structured and rou-
tinized responses to the environment, these cognitive struc-
tures may be destabilized as people acquire alternative
conceptions through their experiences in other cultures,
particularly as people adapt their own thoughts and behav-
iors to the new environment. Exposure to multiple envi-
ronments may even lead individuals to access unconven-
tional knowledge when back in their own cultures. Fourth,
having acquired and successfully applied incongruent ideas
from other cultures, individuals with these rich multicul-
tural experiences may show an increase in psychological
readiness to recruit and seek out ideas from diverse sources
and use them as inputs in the creative process, allowing for
continued exposure to a wide range of new ideas, norms,
and practices.
Finally, foreign cultures may contain values and be-
liefs very different from or even in conflict with those in
one’s own culture. Because incongruent concepts provoke
exploration into their interrelations, the process of resolv-
ing incongruent ideas may lead to greater cognitive com-
plexity in those with multicultural experiences than in those
who have had exposure to only one culture or a limited set
of cultural norms (Tadmor & Tetlock, 2006). Higher cre-
ativity is most likely when the two concepts involved in
conceptual expansion are not normally seen as overlapping
Adam D.
Galinsky
172 April 2008
American Psychologist
with each other (Hampton, 1987; Wan & Chiu, 2002),
seemingly nonoverlapping concepts sometimes being asso-
ciated with two distinct cultural sources.
Therefore, an individual who has been exposed to
different cultures may be able to spontaneously retrieve
seemingly discrepant ideas from each culture and then
juxtapose and integrate those ideas in novel ways (Chiu &
Hong, 2005). Indeed, many insights result from integrating
indigenous cultural exemplars from diverse cultures. For
example, furnishing a modern New York apartment with
traditional Ming Dynasty furniture may give a creative
postmodern feel to the living space. Similarly, a psychol-
ogist exploring topics traditionally confined to economics
(e.g., auction behavior; Ku, Galinsky, & Murnighan, 2006)
or sociologists collaborating with physicists (e.g., under-
standing collaboration networks through computer model-
ing; Guimera`, Uzzi, Spiro, & Amaral, 2005) may integrate
ideas from each discipline into new insights that were
hidden from the individuals working exclusively in their
own disciplines.
One intriguing idea and possible implication of the
effects of multicultural experience is that such effects may
be carried forward to a subsequent unrelated task; that is,
the experience of combining nonoverlapping concepts may
foster a habitual tendency to engage in creative conceptual
expansion when solving a problem. As a result, people may
have better performance in subsequent creativity tasks that
are unrelated to the conceptual combination task (Chiu &
Leung, 2007). There is some evidence for this possibility.
In one experiment (Wan & Chiu, 2002, Experiment 1), half
of the participants were randomly assigned to solve a set of
novel conceptual combination problems (e.g., What is a
vehicle that is also a kind of fish?). The remaining partic-
ipants solved a set of ordinary conceptual combination
problems (e.g., What is a plant that is also a kind of fuel?).
Next, the participants took the Figural tests of the Torrance
Tests of Creativity Thinking (Torrance, 1974), a widely
used standard test of creativity. As expected, participants
who earlier had solved the novel conceptual combination
problems had better performance on the creativity test than
did those who solved the ordinary conceptual combination
problems first. In another experiment (Wan & Chiu, 2002,
Experiment 2), participants who had solved the novel con-
ceptual combination problems first built more creative
LEGO models than did those who solved the ordinary
conceptual combination problems first.
In short, multicultural experience may foster creativity
by (a) providing direct access to novel ideas and concepts
from other cultures, (b) creating the ability to see multiple
underlying functions behind the same form, (c) destabiliz-
ing routinized knowledge structures, thereby increasing the
accessibility of normally inaccessible knowledge, (d) cre-
ating a psychological readiness to recruit ideas from unfa-
miliar sources and places, and (e) fostering synthesis of
seemingly incompatible ideas from diverse cultures.
Empirical Evidence
Thus far, we have presented the theoretical rationale for the
relationship of multicultural experience and creativity. In
this section, we review the empirical evidence for this
relationship and the conditions that facilitate or limit this
relationship.
Multicultural Experience and Creative
Performance
Some early findings have provided indirect evidence for the
potential of multicultural experience to facilitate creativity.
In general, this research has shown that being in varied or
diverse environments can train individuals to encode infor-
mation in multiple ways, building a myriad of associations
between concepts. For example, bilinguals, who have been
exposed to two languages, are more creative than mono-
linguals (Nemeth & Kwan, 1987; Simonton, 1999). Cre-
ativity is found at relatively high rates for individuals who
are first or second generation immigrants and for individ-
uals who are ethnically diverse or ethnically marginalized
(Lambert, Tucker, & d’Anglejan, 1973; Simonton, 1997,
1999). At the group level, creativity is facilitated within
collaborative groups that contain diverse members (Gui-
mera`, et al., 2005; J. M. Levine & Moreland, 2004) and in
groups in which heterogeneous opinions are expressed
(Nemeth & Wachtler, 1983; Simonton, 2003). Even at the
societal level, creativity increases after civilizations open
themselves to outside influences and when geographic ar-
eas are politically fragmented and relatively diverse (Simon-
ton, 1997).
To find out whether multicultural experience in and of
itself leads to creative performance, we conducted an ex-
periment involving European American undergraduates
who had little knowledge of Chinese culture; we had them
watch a 45-minute slide show and then complete a creativ-
ity test (Leung & Chiu, in press-a, Study 1). In the unicul-
Chi-yue Chiu
173April 2008
American Psychologist
tural Chinese culture condition, the participants watched a
slide show about the arts, architecture, food, and other
cultural elements of China. In the juxtaposition condition,
the participants watched a slide show about both American
and Chinese cultures with images from American and
Chinese cultures presented back to back in each slide. In
the fusion condition, participants watched a slide show that
depicted elements of American–Chinese fusion culture
(e.g., Shanghai Tang fashion and Reflection, a Vanessa
Mae music video). In addition, there were two control
conditions in the experiment: an American culture control
condition (a slide show of American culture) and a no-
slide-show control condition. After watching the slide
show, participants received demographic information about
Turkey and were asked to write a creative version of the
Cinderella story for Turkish children. The measure of cre-
ativity in this study did not require knowledge of Chinese
culture. The results showed that the participants who had
watched either the slide show that presented American and
Chinese cultures in juxtaposition or the slide show that
presented American–Chinese fusion culture wrote more
creative Cinderella stories than did the participants in the
other three conditions. It is interesting that the participants
in the unicultural Chinese condition did not perform more
creatively than those in the other control conditions. This
finding has an important implication that we follow up on
below.
Amazingly, these creative benefits of multicultural
exposure survived the test of time. Five to seven days later,
participants were contacted again to generate creative anal-
ogies of time, a measure of creativity that also did not
require knowledge of Chinese culture. Prior to completing
this new creativity task, the participants were asked to write
down any thoughts they had about the slide show they had
watched in the previous session. Again, only the partici-
pants in the juxtaposition and fusion conditions generated
more creative analogies than did the control participants.
These results have several important implications.
First, they provide direct evidence for the causal role of
exposure to a foreign culture in creative performance.
Because the participants were not familiar with Chinese
culture and had been randomly assigned to one of the five
experimental conditions, the effects of Chinese culture
exposure cannot be attributed to other extraneous variables
such as self-selection (creative people voluntarily seek out
multicultural experiences, individuals with certain person-
ality characteristics are more creative and tend to seek out
multicultural experiences) or bilingualism among multicul-
tural individuals.
Second, exposure to Chinese culture produced cre-
ative benefits only when both American and Chinese cul-
tures were presented simultaneously; participants who
watched a slide show only of Chinese culture were not
more creative than the control participants. This finding is
consistent with the idea that holding seemingly incompat-
ible ideas from two cultures in cognitive juxtaposition
invites engagement in creative conceptual expansion (Wan
& Chiu, 2002). Furthermore, content analysis concerning
the personal thoughts about the slide show materials that
participants completed before they performed the time
analogy task (the delayed creativity measure) found that
most participants in the juxtaposition and fusion conditions
compared the similarities and differences between Ameri-
can and Chinese cultures, and many also spontaneously
tried to generate new ideas by integrating seemingly con-
trastive elements of the two cultures ( e.g., one participant
wrote, “Blending furniture styles of multiple cultures not
only emphasizes the extent to which aspects of a certain
culture rub off another, but also produces an entirely new
style which is aesthetically pleasing”). Participants in the
Chinese culture condition rarely generated this kind of
response. This finding suggests a link with Langer and
colleagues’ work on mindfulness, which is the active and
explicit act of noticing one’s environment and drawing
novel distinctions that lead to heightened creativity (Grant,
Langer, Falk, & Capodilupo, 2004; Langer, 2000). It is
plausible that the juxtaposition and fusion conditions in-
duced a mindful-like state, and it will be useful for future
research to explore the overlap between multicultural ex-
perience and mindful thinking.
The facts that effects of exposure to Chinese culture
were obtained on two creativity tasks that did not require
knowledge of Chinese culture and that the benefits re-
mained when creativity was tested again several days after
this exposure suggest that multicultural exposure led to the
engagement of some cognitive skills (e.g., a spontaneous
tendency to engage in creative conceptual expansion) that
underlie creative performance. Similar results were ob-
tained when exposure to foreign cultures was measured
rather than manipulated. With a newly developed Multi-
cultural Experience Survey (MES; Leung & Chiu, in press-
a), which we describe in detail below, we found that
European American undergraduates who had more multi-
cultural experiences displayed greater fluency in generating
creative ideas than did those who had fewer multicultural
experiences (Leung & Chiu, in press-b).
Multicultural Experience and Creative
Processes
The evidence reviewed above illustrates the role of multi-
cultural experience in creative performance. We propose
that individuals with more extensive multicultural experi-
ence will also spontaneously engage in the cognitive pro-
cesses implicated in creative thinking. We have obtained
evidence for two such processes—recruitment of ideas
from unfamiliar cultures for creative idea expansion and
spontaneous retrieval of unconventional knowledge from
memory.
Idea sampling. To test the idea that multicul-
tural experience is positively related to a preference for
sampling ideas from unfamiliar cultures, in one study
(Leung & Chiu, in press-a, Study 3) we had European
American undergraduates with varying levels of multicul-
tural experience perform an idea sampling task that re-
quired them to develop a preliminary idea on the psychol-
ogy of happiness (“People who have more friends are
happier”) into a creative research idea for a psychology
undergraduate thesis. Participants were encouraged to for-
174 April 2008
American Psychologist
mulate their own original and creative ideas about happi-
ness, although they might seek inspirations from some
happiness sayings written by esteemed scholars from the
United States, Turkey, or China (they could choose to read
up to 7 sayings out of a pool of 15). Brief background
information on 15 scholars (5 Americans, 5 Turkish, and 5
Chinese) was presented (a sample scholar description was
“an American researcher who has made several discoveries
about human motivation.”). We conducted a pilot test to
ensure that participants’ choices were not influenced by the
specific contents of the background descriptions, and we
counterbalanced the pairing of the background description
and the nationality of the scholars. Our major dependent
measure was the percentage of happiness sayings written
by foreign scholars (Chinese and Turkish) as opposed to
American scholars that participants chose to read (i.e.,
sampling preference).
The MES was developed to measure participants’
degree of multicultural experience. This survey assessed
participants’ family immigration history, the length of time
they had spent outside their home state, their foreign lan-
guage competency, the ethnicity of their closest friends and
favorite musicians or musical groups, and the kind of
cuisines served in their favorite restaurants (for information
about the psychometric properties of the measure, see
Leung & Chiu, in press-a). It is important to note that the
extent of multicultural experience has not been found to be
significantly correlated with scores on the Openness to
Experience subscale of the NEO Five-Factor Inventory
(NEO-FFI; Costa & McCrae, 1992; see Leung & Chiu, in
press-a, in press-b), which indicates that people who are
more open to experience do not necessarily have more
multicultural experience, and vice versa. The results sup-
ported our hypothesis; participants’ extensiveness of mul-
ticultural experience was positively related to their ten-
dency to sample foreign sayings in the idea sampling task.
Retrieval of unconventional knowledge.
We have also explored whether multicultural experience is
positively related to a readiness to retrieve unconventional
knowledge from memory by testing whether multicultural
experience would be related to the retrieval of unconven-
tional gift ideas (Leung & Chiu, in press-a, Study 2). In a
pretest, a group of European American students each listed
five gift ideas, and, following the procedures suggested by
Barsalou (1985), we scored each gift idea in terms of how
many participants also listed that idea, so that a more
unconventional gift was associated with a lower score. In
the main study, a different sample completed the same gift
generation task and filled out the MES. Following T. B.
Ward et al. (2002), for each participant, we constructed an
index to represent the tendency to spontaneously retrieve
unconventional gift ideas by taking into account how ac-
cessible a certain gift idea was (based on the ordinal posi-
tion of that gift in the list) and how conventional that idea
was (based on the pretest score for the gift). As expected,
participants with richer multicultural experience more
readily retrieved gift ideas that were unconventional.
In summary, in a manner consistent with the creative
cognition framework described above, multicultural expe-
rience was associated with a number of creativity-support-
ing processes. However, we wished to know among whom
and under what circumstances the beneficial effects of
multicultural experience would be most pronounced. We
now turn to these questions.
Who Is Most Likely to Realize the Potential
Benefit of Having Multicultural Experience?
What types of multicultural experiences are associated with
increased creativity? In one study we looked at the expe-
riences of living and traveling in foreign countries. We
asked master of business administration (MBA) students at
a large business school to try to solve the Duncker candle
problem (Duncker, 1945), in which the task is to figure out,
using only a candle, a pack of matches, and a box of tacks,
how to attach the candle to the wall so that the candle burns
properly and does not drip wax on the table or the floor.
The correct solution— emptying the box of tacks and then
tacking it to the wall and placing the candle inside—is
considered a measure of creativity because it involves the
ability to see objects as performing functions different from
their typical functions (i.e., the box is not just a repository
for tacks but can also be used as a stand). Overall, we found
that people who had lived abroad were significantly more
likely to correctly solve the Duncker candle-mounting task
(60%) than those who had not (42%) and that the amount
of time participants had lived abroad significantly predicted
creative solutions. However, the time participants had pre-
viously spent traveling abroad did not have an impact on
creative insight (Maddux & Galinsky, 2007).
We believe that foreign living but not foreign travel-
ing afforded an enduring creative benefit because the ex-
perience of living abroad is qualitatively and quantitatively
different from more cursory foreign or domestic experi-
ences. When living abroad, one encounters numerous in-
centives and opportunities for cognitive and behavioral
adaptation and change. Obviously, individual experiences
will vary tremendously, but for many tourists, travelers, or
temporary visitors, changing one’s actual thinking and be-
haviors to fit into the new culture is rarely required to
navigate through a new country; cognitively and behavior-
ally adapting is much more likely to be necessary if one is
actually living abroad. Therefore, we conducted a subse-
quent study to examine this hypothesis (Maddux & Galin-
sky, 2007). We had MBA students from a large European
business school, a diverse sample that included participants
from 40 different nations, perform the Duncker candle
exercise, after which we measured their experiences living
abroad and their degree of adaptation to foreign countries.
We again found that time abroad predicted creative solu-
tions to the Duncker candle exercise even when we con-
trolled for important individual differences such as bilin-
gualism and the Big Five personality variables. In addition,
we found that the extent to which individuals adapted
themselves to the foreign culture while living abroad sig-
nificantly mediated the link between experience abroad and
creativity.
Building on these findings, we have also examined
whether openness to experience, a personality variable that
175April 2008
American Psychologist
is central to the adaptation process, may also facilitate
creativity. Because individuals who are more open to ex-
perience are also more receptive to novel ideas (Costa &
McCrae, 1992; Feist, 1998; Feist & Brady, 2004; McCrae
& Costa, 1987), they should be more ready to appreciate
and adapt to the novel practices in foreign cultures. In
contrast, when closedminded individuals are exposed to
unfamiliar cultures, they may find novel ideas and practices
in these foreign cultures overwhelming and threatening and
therefore may resist these ideas and retreat to the intellec-
tual comfort zone of their own culture (Hong, Wan, No, &
Chiu, 2007). European American undergraduates com-
pleted the MES (Leung & Chiu, in press-a), the Openness
to Experience subscale of the NEO-FFI (Costa & McCrae,
1992), and two creativity tasks (Leung & Chiu, in press-b).
In the first creativity task, participants generated unconven-
tional uses for a common object (a garbage bag), and we
measured the number of unusual uses generated (i.e., flu-
ency), as well as how many different kinds of uses were
generated (i.e., flexibility) (Guilford, 1959). The second
creativity task, an exemplar generation task, assessed how
readily participants retrieved from memory nonprototypi-
cal or normatively inaccessible exemplars in a domain
(e.g., occupation). Our results showed an interaction be-
tween openness to experience and multicultural experience.
Among the relatively open participants, those with more
extensive multicultural experience (a) were more fluent and
flexible in generating unusual uses of a garbage bag and (b)
generated more normatively inaccessible occupation exem-
plars than other participants would think of (e.g., dialect
coach, optician). In contrast, among the relatively closed-
minded participants, exposure to multicultural experience
was associated with poorer performance on both tests.
Overall, our data suggest that to gain a tangible cre-
ative benefit from multicultural experience, it is important
for individuals not simply to be exposed to foreign cultures
but also to make concrete cognitive and behavioral adap-
tations or to have an open mind-set that welcomes new
experiences. Therefore, what matters is the specific ap-
proach individuals take during their multicultural experi-
ences. These findings echo nicely both the previous section
on multicultural juxtaposition and the next section, in
which we discuss the contextual factors that moderate the
creative benefit of multicultural experience.
What Situations Moderate the Beneficial
Effects of Multicultural Experience?
Despite the robust relationship between multicultural ex-
perience and cognitions and subsequent creativity, we do
not believe this pattern is invariant or exempt from situa-
tional constraints. Situations and mind-sets that foster at-
tachment to one’s own culture or the need for quick and
firm answers may weaken the relation between multicul-
tural experience and creativity.
Time pressure and need for cognitive clo-
sure. If situations that evoke a mind-set that explores
new alternatives and facilitates adaptation can enhance the
creative benefits of multicultural experience, situations that
evoke a desire for firm answers should limit such benefits.
The desire for firm answers is typically referred to as the
need for closure (NFC) in the social motivation literature.
Need for closure concerns the epistemic desire to seize
immediately on a firm answer to an ambiguous issue, and
to “freeze” on that answer without considering other alter-
natives (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996; Webster & Kruglan-
ski, 1994). Individuals with a high NFC tend to be cogni-
tively conservative and to follow cultural conventions
(Chiu, Morris, Hong, & Menon, 2000; Fu et al., 2007; Jost,
Glaser, Sulloway, & Kruglanski, 2003). They prefer order
and predictability, feel uncomfortable with ambiguity, and
therefore prefer having firm answers rather than multiple
alternatives. Because norms or conventional knowledge
provide conventionalized solutions that are widely ac-
cepted in the culture, individuals with a high NFC have a
tendency to use cultural norms to guide their judgments
(Chiu et al., 2000). In a recent study, Ip, Chen, and Chiu
(2006) found that the NFC is positively related to people’s
tendency to access normatively accessible exemplars in a
conceptual domain. For example, among American under-
graduates, the most normatively accessible exemplars of
fruit are apples, oranges, bananas, and strawberries, and the
least normatively accessible exemplars are sugarcane, crab
apples, cacti, dragon eyes, and rhubarb. Undergraduates
with a higher NFC were more likely to list normatively
accessible exemplars.
Individuals are particularly likely to have a higher
NFC under time pressure (Chiu et al., 2000; Kruglanski &
Freund, 1983). For example, doctoral students writing their
PhD theses may hesitate to consult an unfamiliar research
literature for new inspirations when the deadline for sub-
mitting the thesis draws near. Accordingly, when perform-
ing a creativity task under time pressure, even those who
have plenty of multicultural experience may desire firm
answers and hesitate to recruit ideas from unfamiliar cul-
tures. This hypothesis was supported in a study (Leung &
Chiu, in press-a, Study 4) in which European American
undergraduates performed the idea sampling task described
earlier (expanding a simple idea about happiness into a
creative thesis through seeking inspirations from happiness
sayings). Half of the participants performed the task under
time pressure, and the remaining students were assured that
they had plenty of time to perform the task. Consistent with
predictions, in the low-time-pressure condition, partici-
pants with more multicultural experience sampled more
foreign sayings, but in the high-time-pressure condition,
participants with more multicultural experience sampled
fewer foreign sayings. These results suggest that even
individuals with multicultural experience prefer firm an-
swers when performing a creativity task under time pres-
sure; they are motivated to anchor on the ideas from their
own culture and to resist potentially conflicting ideas from
unfamiliar cultures. It is interesting that the effect of time
pressure was stronger for those with more multicultural
experience, possibly because these individuals are more
aware of the potential cultural variations in how ideas can
be conceptualized and thus show a situation-specific avoid-
ance of ideas from foreign cultures.
176 April 2008
American Psychologist
Mortality salience. In addition to time pressure,
reminding people of their mortality may also increase their
reliance on knowledge from their own culture. According
to terror management theory, adhering to culturally shared
worldviews can protect people from the existential terror of
death (Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997). To
manage this existential terror, individuals often identify
with the core values and ideas in their own culture. By
embracing cultural values and ideas that will continue to
propagate after their own death, individuals can feel a sense
of symbolic immortality and hence lower their existential
anxiety (Kashima, Halloran, Yuki, & Kashima, 2004).
There is also evidence that when confronted with the
thought of their finitude, individuals feel guilty about en-
gaging in creative activities (Arndt, Greenberg, Solomon,
Pyszczynski, & Schimel, 1999). This could lead individu-
als whose mortality has been made salient to be reluctant to
recruit ideas from other cultures even when they have rich
multicultural experience.
In one study (Leung & Chiu, in press-a, Study 5), we
asked European American undergraduates to take part in
the aforementioned idea sampling task in which they could
consult ideas from local (American) or unfamiliar foreign
(Chinese, Turkish) cultures to expand a primitive idea
about happiness. Before working on this task, some partic-
ipants, randomly selected, were asked to vividly imagine
what would happen to their bodies as and after they died,
which is a standard mortality salience manipulation (e.g.,
Arndt et al., 1999). The remaining participants were asked
to describe the experience of dental pain (control condi-
tion). In this study, apart from measuring the percentage of
foreign ideas participants would consult in the task, we also
had participants rate on an 11-point scale how persuasive,
helpful, inspiring, and creative their chosen sayings were,
thereby providing us with two evaluative scores pertaining
to the American sayings and the foreign sayings. As ex-
pected, in the control (dental pain) condition, participants
with more multicultural experience evaluated the foreign
sayings more positively. Conversely, when they were con-
fronted with thoughts of their own death, participants’
extent of multicultural experience was unrelated to their
ratings of foreign sayings. Mortality salience is another
boundary of the beneficial effects of multicultural experi-
ence on the creative process.
General Discussion
The research findings reviewed here demonstrate that mul-
ticultural experience predicts both creative outcomes and
creative processes. Multicultural experience is positively
related to performance in solving a problem that requires
insight and to producing creative ideas without being con-
fined to the widely known. It also predicts creativity-
supporting processes such as the tendency to access uncon-
ventional knowledge from memory and to recruit ideas
from foreign cultures for creative idea expansion. More-
over, the relationship between multicultural experience and
creativity is particularly strong when people adapt and are
open to these new experiences and when the creative con-
text deemphasizes the need for firm answers or mortality
concerns.
Implications for Management and Education
We believe that examining the relationship between mul-
ticultural experience and creativity can have important
ramifications for both organizations and student learning.
Intercultural dynamics are becoming increasingly salient in
both international corporations and educational environ-
ments (Jenn, Northcraft, & Neale, 1999; Williams &
O’Reilly, 1998). Bringing employees and students from
different cultural backgrounds into the same team or de-
partment provides one form of multicultural experience
that can potentially make people more facile at creative
problem solving and idea generation. The same is true for
students who study abroad and for employees who are sent
to work or receive training in foreign branches.
These trends have important implications for human
resources management in organizations. Increasingly, hu-
man resources managers and specialists have felt the need
to facilitate the positive aspects of the growing workforce
diversity to benefit both the organization and its employees.
Indeed, an increasing number of multicultural organiza-
tions have created the position of chief diversity officer
(CDO) to manage workforce diversity (Johansson, 2005).
The research presented here on the psychology of multi-
cultural experience and creativity could help diversity spe-
cialists implement policies to motivate employees to inte-
grate native and new cultural knowledge; effective
integration of the familiar with the unfamiliar should boost
cognitive and behavioral flexibility in response to the
evolving demands of intercultural business contexts. Our
findings that only some types of multicultural experiences
and contexts facilitate creativity can also be incorporated
into the design of both cultural competence and creativity
training programs. Creating certain mind-sets (e.g., adap-
tive, open to new experiences) and contexts (e.g., reducing
time constraints or pressures to articulate firm beliefs)
while working to juxtapose or fuse multiple cultures rather
than dealing with each in isolation will likely lead to more
effective programs.
Second, our research also has significant implications
for education. Maehr and Yamaguchi (2001) commented
that educators should first recognize the positive features of
cultural diversity but that the ultimate challenge is to trans-
form schools into educational enterprises that value diver-
sity. To our knowledge, few studies have systematically
explicated the potential beneficial role of multicultural ex-
perience in student learning (e.g., acquiring new perspec-
tives and creative abilities). We believe that the current
article is able to demonstrate to educators and practitioners
the positive aspects of cultural diversity that can benefit
every student, thus giving students from diverse ethnic and
cultural backgrounds the confidence and motivation to
learn in a multicultural education setting. In addition, our
studies provide insight into how to structure multicultural
exposure to achieve its benefits. Learning about other cul-
tures should involve juxtaposing elements of the new cul-
177April 2008
American Psychologist
ture with those of the host culture and contemplating pos-
sible fusions of the two.
Finally, our findings may be part of a larger process of
becoming culturally intelligent, that is, possessing the abil-
ity to make sense of and blend into unfamiliar cultural
contexts (Chiu & Hong, 2005; Earley & Ang, 2003; Earley
& Mosakowski, 2004). Some individuals may be naturally
more adept at blending into new cultural environments than
others. However, not only may acquiring the ability to
adapt to and mentally juxtapose aspects of different cul-
tures help people become increasingly culturally intelli-
gent, but the mental processes involved in exposure to
heterogeneous environments may have the beneficial side
effect of enhancing creativity as well.
Despite these possible benefits, our results also indi-
cate that multicultural experience does not guarantee cre-
ativity. To begin with, superficial exposure to another cul-
ture is not conducive to creativity: Having the motivation to
adapt and to contemplate similarities and dissimilarities to
one’s own culture while immersed in another culture
abroad is critical. In addition, multicultural experience does
not improve an individual’s performance in a creativity
task unless the individual is predisposed to being open to
experience. Furthermore, a performance context that deem-
phasizes one’s mortality and the desire for firm answers is
also important for reaping the creative benefit of multicul-
tural experience. These facilitative and limiting factors
deserve serious consideration in the design of diversity
education and training programs.
Implications for the Study of Creativity
In this article, we have looked at how larger multicultural
environments combine with an individual’s current mind-
set, his or her personality (e.g., openness to experience),
cognitive processes (retrieval of unconventional knowl-
edge, the creative process of idea sampling), motivation
(need for cognitive closure), and affect (existential anxiety)
to affect creativity. This multiperspective approach is con-
sonant with Sternberg and Lubart’s (1996) confluence the-
ories of creativity, with which the phenomenon of creativ-
ity can be more thoroughly understood.
In addition, although researchers generally agree that
culture may affect creativity, previous research on culture
and creativity has focused primarily on cultural differences
in creative performance or on lay conceptions of creativity
(see Niu & Sternberg, 2001). The current research goes
beyond this “compilation of differences” approach and
explores the possibility of fostering creativity in everyday
life through multicultural experience. Furthermore, al-
though the studies reviewed in the present article did not
address cultural differences in the relationship between
multicultural experience and creativity, to the extent that
time pressure and closedmindedness diminish or even re-
verse the positive relationship between multicultural expe-
rience and creativity, and that cultures vary in both pace of
life (R. V. Levine & Norenzayan, 1999) and the emphasis
placed on intellectual autonomy versus conservatism
(Smith, Peterson, & Schwartz, 2002), the association be-
tween multicultural experience and creativity may be stron-
ger in societies with a slower pace of life and a heavier
emphasis on intellectual autonomy. As such, our findings
add new directions for study to the psychology of culture
and creativity.
Directions for Future Research
Some studies reviewed in this article have shed initial light
on the causal direction of the acquisition of multicultural
experience (cause) and the fostering of creativity (effect)
through experimentally manipulating different ways of pre-
senting a foreign culture and observing its subsequent
effect on creativity. The results of these studies can help
eliminate the alternative explanations that multicultural
experience is often confounded with bilingual competence
and that creative people tend to seek out multicultural
experience voluntarily. In future research, we hope to clar-
ify this interpretive issue further by conducting longitudinal
studies to verify the causal role of multicultural experience
in creativity.
We also want to acknowledge the limitations of the
research reviewed above and their implications for future
research directions. For example, most of the research
reviewed here examined highly educated participant sam-
ples, including undergraduate college students and gradu-
ate business students enrolled in MBA or Executive MBA
programs in the United States and Europe. Although the
relatively wide variety of samples indicates a robust and
consistent relationship between multicultural experience
and creativity, future work is needed on samples that are
more representative of the populations at large. For exam-
ple, research should involve less educated individuals, such
as migrant workers, and both student and nonstudent sam-
ples in other parts of the world, such as Asia, Africa, and
the Middle East.
It is also imperative to look more specifically at how
qualitatively different types of living-abroad experiences
affect the creative process; for example, the type of country
lived in and how different it is, culturally and linguistically,
from one’s home country may play a particularly important
role. It is certainly plausible that the more different a
foreign country is in terms of cultural background from an
individual’s home country, the more creative the individual
may become; it is also possible that this relationship is
curvilinear such that living in a highly unfamiliar culture
would lead to withdrawal and even incite nationalistic
resistance against the foreign culture (Chiu & Cheng,
2007). The literature on multicultural experience needs a
thorough analysis of the moderators that lead individuals
down one path or the other.
A related question concerns the status differences
between the host country and the home country. Are the
effects on creativity stronger when the host country’s status
is equal to that of the individual’s home country? Or do
individuals from higher status countries get particularly
valuable insights from being less anchored to their privi-
leged vantage point (especially given the negative relation-
ship between power and perspective taking; Galinsky, Ma-
gee, Inesi, & Gruenfeld, 2006). The role of the size of the
differences in cultural practices and status is a particularly
178 April 2008
American Psychologist
fruitful area in which to study the relationship between
multicultural experience and creativity in future studies.
Another interesting question concerns the specific
amount of time that is necessary for immersion in foreign
environments to facilitate creativity. The research reviewed
here suggests a general linear trend between multicultural
experience and creativity, but it is as yet unclear when a
significant effect might start to emerge. Is there a mini-
mum, critical level of time spent living abroad before
cognitive changes become enduring? What marginal utility
might a third year abroad offer over and above the initial
two years? These are important questions for future re-
search.
It is important to note that we do not mean to suggest
that some shorter term multicultural experiences are with-
out value. On the contrary, we believe that such experi-
ences can be of great value. In fact, there are numerous
examples of high-profile individuals having life-changing
experiences during short visits in a foreign country. The
late Boris Yeltsin indicated that his ideas of reforming
Russia’s political economy were inspired by a visit to a
Houston supermarket: He was astounded at the wide selec-
tion of foods available to any American and appalled that
Russians had limited access to these basic necessities.
Similarly, Malcolm X’s views on racial prejudice were
transformed during a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was
stunned to see Muslims of all nationalities and ethnic
backgrounds living and worshipping in harmony. Our re-
sults also indicate that a 45-minute exposure to a foreign
culture can produce enduring creative benefits. What seem
to be critical are (a) whether the experience allows for
juxtaposition and integration of cultural differences, (b)
whether the individual is open to new ideas, and (c)
whether the multicultural context encourages learning and
minimizes the need for firm answers and existential anxi-
ety. When these critical conditions are met, the opportuni-
ties and incentives for people to adapt to a new culture are
maximized. In this context, exposure to foreign cultures is
expected to have both an immediate and a potentially
sustainable effect on creative performance.
Postscript: Multicultural Experience
and Creativity From a Global
Perspective
Globalization has increased the amount of intercultural
contacts and hence the opportunities for acquiring multi-
cultural experiences. People’s reactions to globalization
have been both diverse and polarized. Skeptics believe that
globalization can threaten the viability of local cultures and
undermine people’s sense of community and cultural iden-
tity, whereas enthusiasts believe that globalization is a
profoundly enriching process that opens minds, removes
cultural barriers, and even strengthens the diffusion of
human rights and democracy. Our results are relevant to
this dialogue. They suggest that exposure to other cultures
has the potential to enhance people’s creativity, as the
globalization enthusiasts posit. However, our results also
show that attempts to promote creativity by increasing
intercultural contact can be easily thwarted when the situ-
ation highlights the need for firm answers or when indi-
viduals experience existential threat that leads them to
adhere even more rigidly to the typical ideas and practices
in their own culture. These individuals may even view
foreign ideas and practices not as sources of inspiration, but
as contaminants of their heritage culture (Chiu & Cheng,
2007).
Issues concerning the cultural and psychological ef-
fects of intercultural interactions have been a consistent
focus of major public and academic world forums (Speth,
2003), and the effects of multicultural experience on cre-
ativity and psychological resistance to new cultures are at
the heart of the ongoing discussions on globalization. The
research we reviewed in the present article uses a unique
behavioral science perspective to address some of the ma-
jor issues in these discussions, which we believe can offer
important insights into the content of these debates. Ulti-
mately we hope that research on the impact of multicultural
experience on creativity will have a part to play in the
emerging psychology of globalization and will inspire new
research and more evidence-based discussions on the psy-
chological impacts of globalization.
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