Social Rejects Are More Creative

Picture: MJT16 (PD)

Most of the outliers know that being strange, unique, and original has always been advantageous to creative ingenuity and discovery. Drawing, for example, is not simply the muscle memory of the hand, but a different way of ‘seeing’. Actors and writers succeed mostly due to their ability to craft alternate realities based on experiences from their twisted past. Scientists, futurists, inventors, political scientists and philosophers make history by asking heretofore unthinkable questions, and proposing even more absurd answers (both of which may have elicited some odd looks from peers and family members alike).

It’s about time science recognized the value of being a loser, an outcast, or a social reject. Many successful ventures, after all, may have been the result of a fair bit of name-calling back in middle school.

From Fast Company, found via Big Think:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Cornell have recently found that the socially rejected might also be society’s most creatively powerful people.

The study, which is forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, is called “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought?” It found that people who already have a strong “self-concept”–i.e. are independently minded–become creatively fecund in the face of rejection. “We were inspired by the stories of highly creative individuals like Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga,” says the study’s lead author, Hopkins professor Sharon Kim. “And we wanted to find a silver lining in all the popular press about bullying. There are benefits to being different.”

The study consisted of 200 Cornell students and set out to identify the relationship between the strength of an individual’s self-concept and their level of creativity. First, Kim tested the strength of each student’s self-concept by assessing his or her “need for uniqueness.” In other words, how important it is for each individual to feel separate from the crowd. Next, students were told that they’d either been included in or rejected from a hypothetical group project. Finally, they were given a simple, but creatively demanding, task: Draw an alien from a planet unlike earth.

Kim found that people with a strong self-concept who were rejected produced more creative aliens than people from any other group, including people with a strong self-concept who were accepted. “If you’re in a mindset where you don’t care what others think,” she explained, “you’re open to ideas that you may not be open to if you’re concerned about what other people are thinking.”

In other words, you’re better off if you learned early not to worry about the club. In a larger sense, businesses could learn a lot from these findings, instead of hiring the same vapid acolytes to the status quo. There’s more to the study, so read about it here, and look for it in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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27 Responses to Social Rejects Are More Creative

  1. A.Lizard September 17, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    I wonder if anyone is surprised by this.

    • Miracles September 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

      Living in your parents’ basement doesn’t qualify you as “creative”.

      • Stephen September 18, 2012 at 5:00 am #

        But what if you make it into a bunker or even a deck to the Starship Enterprise!!!

  2. Hadrian999 September 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    sadly every loser thinks that they are automatically a creative undiscovered genius, more often than not they just never mastered hygene

    • Ted Heistman September 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

       or speling…

      • Hadrian999 September 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

        every grammar nazi attacks gives me a warm fuzzy feeling

        • Ted Heistman September 17, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

           Hygene gives me the warm fuzzies! ;-)

          • Hadrian999 September 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

            good for you, that helps with the entertainment budget.

          • Calypso_1 September 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

            …What sort of products are you using?

          • Ted Heistman September 18, 2012 at 8:42 am #

             Lots of hair gel!

          • Calypso_1 September 18, 2012 at 11:20 am #

            and this is producing an exothermic reaction?

    • Miracles September 17, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      yeah, hipsters.  the cancer on us the Chosen True Creatives.

  3. Ted Heistman September 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Ok let’s see everyone’s alien pictures…I know you have them!

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-dCSVZKL4S18/To8Tfh0LUdI/AAAAAAAAAeE/5Rv-3BsV9tc/s1600/madison%2B2011%2Bsummer%2B200.jpg

  4. BuzzCoastin September 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    > It’s about time science recognized the value of being a loser, an outcast, or a social reject.

    interesting that creativity is being associated with being a loser, an outcast, or a social reject
    instead being intelligent enough to reject the bullshit that passes as NORMAL

    after I climbed sufficiently high up the corporate ladder
    I realized I could never be stupid or compliant enough to be CEO
    and that my creative skills were being used by the globalists to further their ends
    while I reaped meager rewards for furthering their agenda
    that’s when I bailed on the system
    and used my creativity to further my ends
    15 years and so far so good

    • Miracles September 17, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      Love to be deconstructed by the “Normals”.  johnnycashfinger.jpg

    • BrianApocalypse September 18, 2012 at 8:18 am #

      As Krishnamurti said,  “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

      • BuzzCoastin September 18, 2012 at 8:25 am #

         Maslow said something similar.

        but there is far less critiques of the so called normal state
        and a lot of spin on the oddball caricature
        which i think is
        designed to keep people from reaching their creative potential
        by convincing them they’re too normal to be creative

        • BrianApocalypse September 18, 2012 at 8:41 am #

           True, although ironically I suppose a genuine critique of “normal” or
          “average” personalities would have to first accept that there is
          something wrong with “normal”.

          It may also be true that, in many cases, the urge to be creative in the first place stems from a desire to change the world around you in some way, which in turn presupposes a rebellious or outcast personality.

        • Calypso_1 September 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

          I take every opportunity I can to help others unleash their inner weirdness.  You’re right in how well constructed an individuals ‘normality’ is. 

  5. VaudeVillain September 18, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    But business WANTS the same vapid acolytes, because the most conniving of the alpha outcasts are smart enough to recognize competition when they see it… plus, let’s be honest, surrounding yourself with servile bimbos IS a pretty appealing concept in terms of both aesthetics and spite.

  6. dnvrj September 18, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    the poor shall inherit the kingdom… a kingdom that only those with the creative vision to see the truth, even in the face of fact, shall see… but it is then their job to bring that kingdom here

  7. dick September 18, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    Timothy Leary wrote a book about this called evolutionary agents. 

  8. Ted Heistman September 18, 2012 at 8:41 am #

     If you read the article it doesn’t say that if you wear plaid shirts with striped pants and a pocket protector and don’t brush your teeth you are thus more creative. It has to do with having a strong self concept. Which is some times forged in the fire as it were.

    If you have a strong sense of who you are independent of what others think and are OK with people rejecting you for who you are then you will take more risks in being creative, otherwise you will fear rejection, for being different, too much and conform out of fear.

    I think people need some support though. One good skill is to know how to properly weigh feedback.

  9. Uncertain September 18, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Its funny how most researches today confuse cause and effect..
    sorry if my english isnt worthy, Im working on it :)

  10. Tiny dancer September 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    I find that when I want to do something creative and original and I am not around other artists, that I have to seek solitude to have the time, mental space and autonomy to do what I want with out have to please someone who is not into what I am doing, like friends and family. Not because they reject me but because people require attention and also seeing someone go off the beaten path distracts them from their current routines and a lot of people dont like change for changes sake . Calling me a LOSER is a sure way to get your ass kicked or your car keyed. Respect is key to social health. 

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