The Gray Side of Creativity: Exploring the Role of Activation in the Link Between Creative Personality and Unethical Behavior

Ke Michael Mai, Aleksander P J Ellis, David Welsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Although creative personality is generally viewed as a desirable characteristic (e.g., Amabile, 1988), there may be a dark side associated with creative thinking in terms of increasing unethical behavior (e.g., Gino & Ariely, 2012). By integrating trait activation theory (. Tett & Burnett, 2003) and self-concept maintenance theory (. Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 2008), we expand current understanding of the relationship between creative personality and unethical behavior. More specifically, consistent results across three studies using both student and nonstudent samples suggest that the effects of creative personality on unethical behavior are determined in large part by the presence of activators and are mediated by the development of unethical justifications. Implications for the creativity and behavioral ethics literatures are discussed as well as directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-85
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Behavioral ethics
  • Creative personality
  • Self-concept maintenance
  • Trait activation
  • Unethical behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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