We Make Stuff Up. Does That Encourage Dishonesty?

It’s hard to resist an article with a headline like this one in Bloomberg Businessweek: Are Creative People More Dishonest?

The article refers to a a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (available for purchase).

Here’s the juicy bit for AdPulp readers:

The first study featured in the paper uses survey data compiled from 99 employees across 17 departments at an unnamed U.S. advertising agency in the South. The employees were asked to indicate how likely they’d be to engage in various ethically questionable behaviors—everything from stealing office supplies to inflating business expense reports. They also rated the level of creativity required for their specific jobs. (Their answers were cross-checked by evaluations from three top managers, who also rated the creativity of each department). “We found a positive correlation,” says Gino. “The more creativity required on the job, the more unethical behavior was self-reported.”

I haven’t downloaded the study, but I probably will, even though studies in academic journals tend to be very dry. The “agency in the South” is not identified.

So do you think creative people are more dishonest? In a world where everything is subjective, does it help to twist the truth? Is this why scam ads are so prevalent at awards shows–knowing you need to cut some corners to get ahead in this industry?

We make stuff up for a living. Maybe the truth just gets in the way, even when we’re not making ads.

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.