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Entitlement Boosts Creativity

Generally considered a negative trait, entitlement, in small doses, can actually have the positive effect of boosting creativity, according to a new study to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

by Jim Patterson
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Lynne VincentLynne Vincent, post-doctoral research fellow at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management.Vanderbilt UniversityVarious studies have found that those who feel entitled are less likely to help others or apologize and are more likely to want special privileges, break rules, treat their romantic partners selfishly and make unethical decisions.

However, in a new studyentitlement was examined for a positive consequence, and researchers found that stirring entitlement in people stimulates their creativity. The condition was prompted by a short exercise where subjects were encouraged to write sentences about why they deserved various positive outcomes.

“Our results suggest that people who feel more entitled value being different from others, and the greater their need for uniqueness, the more they break convention, think divergently and give creative responses,” say Lynne C. Vincent, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, and Emily Zitek, assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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Creativity tests

In four studies documented in the article “Deserve and Diverge: Feeling Entitled Makes People More Creative,” subjects given a boost in feelings of entitlement did significantly better in creativity tests. Using tasks including imagining uses for a paper clip, drawing a space alien and a word association exercise, test subjects made to feel entitled outdid the non-entitled every time and by significant margins.

The study investigated “state entitlement,” meaning small, temporary boosts in feelings of entitlement. It did not test “trait entitlement,” a more permanent state of mind.

“We have failed to find positive relationships between trait entitlement and creativity across several studies,” Vincent and Zitek write. “Similarly, narcissism, which is correlated with trait entitlement, is not consistently related to actual creativity.”

There could be other positive consequences of state entitlement, and Vincent and Zitek suggest further study.

“For example, due to the heightened need for uniqueness associated with entitlement, entitled individuals might be more willing to engage in other tasks that require them to stand out, such as public speaking, pitching an idea and whistle-blowing,” they write.