The Social “Cost” of Working in Groups and Impact on Values and Creativity


Creative things are always original, but they must be more than just original. They must also have some utility, effectiveness, or value. The present research tested the psychoeconomic definition of “value” and examined how value ratings fluctuated when individuals worked in groups or alone. This psychoeconomic definition of value is very different from that found in previous studies. It was based on ratings obtained after the students participating had been told that their grades depended on their teamwork. Previous studies have used hypothetical ratings of value, but here the ratings were meaningful: there was a contingency placed on making a good decision, and that decision focused on creative teamwork. This investigation also tested the idea that originality and value are both required for creativity. Psychoeconomic theory not only offers an objective and behavioural index of value. It also offers predictions about the “social costs” of working in groups. To test these ideas individuals received two tests of divergent thinking, either while alone (no social cost), working in a small group (low cost), or working in a larger group (high cost). Social preferences were controlled, as was extraversion. Results indicate that fluency did not diminish when the social costs were present. Moreover, originality increased when participants worked in groups. Findings also demonstrated that value judgments can be reliably assessed and that the interaction of value and originality accounted for a significant amount of the variability in creativity ratings.

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