Study Shows Creative Thinkers May Be More Likely to Cheat

Many of today’s students will leave high school without the critical and creative thinking skills needed to solve college-level problems and make wise real-world decisions. In order for American students to be strong innovators, leaders, and observers, many schools have adopted a critical and creative thinking program. However, according to a new study, for all the positive effects creative thinking can have on students, it can also apply to their ethics and the rate at which students cheat.

In the Time magazine article “Why Creative Types May Be More Likely to Cheat,” it is said that “creative people may prove to be especially limber mental gymnasts.” Researchers found this to be true through a series of five experiments that started with measuring participants creative thinking abilities and intelligence.

In one test, participants took a multiple choice test with questions like “How far can a kangaroo jump?” and “What is the capital of Italy?” in which they circled their answers. After completing the test, the researcher asked the participants to transfer their answers to a standardized scan sheet. However, she explained she had accidentally scanned the answer key so participants would faintly be able to see the answers.

The participants believed their cheating wouldn’t be detected, when actually, their cheating was being tracked through a unique code. In the end, the study showed “people who scored high in creativity were significantly more likely to cheat when filling out the bubble sheets.” There was no link between intelligence and creativity on the test scores. Those with high intelligence and low creativity weren’t found to be “especially dishonest.”

The authors of the study finished saying:

“The results from the current article indicate that, in fact, people who are creative or work in environments that promote creative thinking may be the most at risk when they face ethical dilemmas.”

Are you surprised or worried by the researchers’ findings? Do educators and parents who teach critical thinking have a responsibility to present creative thinking as a powerful device that could bring negative actions? Educators and parents can teach critical and creative thinking skills to students, but we can’t control how they think or if they will use them to study for a test or find a loophole to cheat their way to a better grade.

Show your students how critical and creative thinking can help them go above and beyond, instead of how to creatively detect an easy way out. You can visit the LifeBound website to learn more about  Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers for methods on how to give students effective skills to think, problem solve, and ask powerful questions.



“Why Creative Types May Be More Likely to Cheat,” by Meredith Melnick. 29 November 2011. Time magazine. Accessed on 12 December 2011.

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