Beyond Self-Confidence

800px-2445_-_Milano_-_Università_statale_-_Adolfo_Wildt_(1868-1931)_-_Sant'Ambrogio_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall'Orto,_22-Feb--2008Now the more creativity is the mantra of business, the educational institutions have been informed that they need to encourage rather than quash creativity. The recurring theme of the difficulty in getting along with creative people has recurred.  So what exactly makes creative people unlikeable for some of the population? Recent research at the University of North Carolina (Silvia et al, 2011) pinpointed the offensive characteristic as arrogance.

Similar to much research conducted on larger populations, this one used college students who self-reported information on creative abilities and personality traits. A lot of the traits measured did not seem to matter. Creative people described themselves as both extroverted and introverted, emotional and rational, conscientious and unconcerned.  The agreeableness did not seem to have a bearing on creativity either, except for one aspect.

Highly creative students scored lower than average on the honesty-humility scale. They were not any more angry than the average person, but they were more arrogant.  According to the study “This finding is consistent with past work on arrogance, which is captured by the pretentiousness and immodesty defined by low honesty-humility.” Even though creative people can cooperate and are not overly hostile, their feeling of entitlement because of perceived ability irks others.

This characteristic is not the same as narcissism in which people rate themselves more highly in leadership and performance than others and responded with violent behaviors when their ego is threatened.  Arrogance is more of a type of social interaction than a consistently held internal  perception. It is manifested when in the company of others by exaggerating one’s own importance and being critical of others.  The person who shows arrogance  may actually have a lower than average self-esteem.

However, arrogance in creative individuals tend to be countered by a greater openness to experience, which correlates to a willingness to accept other ideas -but not all of them.  In this case there is a feeling of superior judgment, not defending own ideas as much as one’s own judgment.  Creative people can sympathize and compromise with others, but they still believe that they know better.

Sant’Ambrogio, sculpture by Adolfo Wildt (1868-1931) – Photograph by Giovanni Dall’Orto
P.J. Silvia., J. C. Kaufman, R. Reiter-Palmonc, B. Wigert, B. Cantankerous creativity: Honesty–Humility, Agreeableness, and the HEXACO structure of creative achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 51, Issue 5, October 2011, Pp 687–689
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