Outside advantage: Can social rejection fuel creative thought?

Sharon H. Kim, Lynne C. Vincent, Jack A. Goncalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Eminently creative people working in fields as disparate as physics and literature refer to the experience of social rejection as fuel for creativity. Yet, the evidence of this relationship is anecdotal, and the psychological process that might explain it is as yet unknown. We theorize that the experience of social rejection may indeed stimulate creativity but only for individuals with an independent self-concept. In 3 studies, we show that individuals who hold an independent self-concept performed more creatively after social rejection relative to inclusion. We also show that this boost in creativity is mediated by a differentiation mind-set, or salient feelings of being different from others. Future research might investigate how the self-concept-for example, various cultural orientations-may shape responses to social rejection by mitigating some of the negative consequences of exclusion and potentially even motivating creative exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-611
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Creativity
  • Self-concept
  • Social rejection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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