Study: A Sense of Entitlement Boosts Creativity

Taking long walks, dimming the lights down low, mussing up your desk--we all have our tricks to get the creative juices flowing. But there's another way to invigorate the right-side of your brain: a sense of entitlement.

When it comes to getting the creative juices flowing, Tom Jacobs of the Pacific Standard knows we all have our rituals to help us get inspired: taking long walks, dimming the lights down low, mussing up your desk. But there's another way to invigorate the right-side of your brain (and you may not be happy about it): a sense of entitlement (told you).


The find is all thanks to a recent study by Emily Zitek of Cornell University and Lynne Vincent of Vanderbilt University. The study split a group of 99 participants in half, priming one group to feel entitled by filling out a worksheet listing, “why they should demand the best in life, why they deserve more than others, and why they should get their way in life.” The other part of the group had to fill out a sheet listing why they don't deserve more than others and shouldn't get their way, thus priming them with a more depressing state of mind (i.e. not feeling entitled).

Once the groups were in the right mindset, they were asked to perform a series of creative tasks, such as repurposing a paper clip and drawing an animal native “to a planet that is very different from Earth." Zitek and Vincent found the entitled group fared much better:

“Our results suggest that people who feel entitled value being different from others. The greater their need for uniqueness, the more they break convention, think divergently, and give creative responses.”

If some of you may be a bit depressed to hear that the self-entitled snob in your writers' workshop may be more creative than you, well, there's a silver lining. Zitek and Vincent also found that people who feel entitled most of the time are, on average, no more creative than anyone else, perhaps “[lacking] motivation or effort” after admiring themselves all day.

While it may be against some people's nature to think highly of themselves, it might be good to celebrate yourself for a moment before you churn out another chapter in that novel you're writing.

In his Big Think interview, John Harbison talks about how composers are driven to create because they “have not heard exactly a music that they would like to hear.”

Read more at Pacific Standard

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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