News: How Getting Rejected Fuels Creativity

News: How Getting Rejected Fuels Creativity

Psychology November 05, 2012 / By Laura Newcomer
News: How Getting Rejected Fuels Creativity

Social rejection doesn't always return negative results

The Study
Researchers conducted a series of three studies in which students at a university were made to believe they’d been either “accepted” or “rejected” by a group. Participants were then told in person that they’d complete additional creative tasks as individuals (if they’d been “rejected”) or would join their group after completing some tasks (if they’d been “accepted”).

In Study 1, participants were given seven minutes to complete word problems designed to assess creativity. In Studies 2 and 3, the researchers repeated the same procedures but accounted for variables like positive feelings and verbal reasoning. They found that these variables weren’t responsible for individual differences in creativity (meaning rejection likely was the cause). In the third study, participants were asked to draw fantastical creatures. These drawings were used as a barometer of creativity if they looked unlike pre-existing animals on Earth.

Ultimately, social rejection didn’t always return negative results, it all depended if the person identified more as independent or interdependent. Researchers speculate that because more independent people already feel “different,” they’re more willing to explore unusual ideas and abandon traditional ways of thinking post-rejection.
In contrast, interdependent people are more motivated to fit in and maintain harmony within a group, making them more likely to respond to rejection with efforts to repair and strengthen friendships. For these folks, rejection can have some pretty pronounced negative consequences. But for individuals whose need to be independent is stronger than the need to belong, being rejected might end up boosting creativity.


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