Being rejected socially makes people more creative, research finds.
Feeling outside the group helps people generate more novel ideas.
It may help to explain why so many great artists were outsiders — people who lived separate lives in order to produce works that would surprise and delight the rest of us.
The study’s authors call it the ‘outsider advantage’.
Professor Jack Goncalo, who led the study, said:
“If you have the right way of managing rejection, feeling different can help you reach creative solutions.
Unlike people who have a strong need to belong, some socially rejected people shrug off rejection with an attitude of ‘normal people don’t get me and I am meant for something better.’
Our paper shows how that works.”
For the study, half the participants were told they were not selected for a group and had to do a creativity task on their own.
These people subsequently came up with more novel, unusual solutions to creative problems.
Professor Goncalo said:
“We’re note dismissing the negative consequences rejection has on many individuals, but for some people, the rejection has a golden lining.
For the socially rejected, creativity may be the best revenge.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Kim et al., 2012).