Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 86, Issue 1, pp 101–112 | Cite as

Understanding the Complex Relationship Between Creativity and Ethical Ideologies

  • Paul E. BierlyIII
  • Robert W. Kolodinsky
  • Brian J. Charette


The relationship between individuals’ creativity and their ethical ideologies appears to be complex. Applying Forsyth’s (1980, 1992) personal moral philosophy model which consists of two independent ethical ideology dimensions, idealism and relativism, we hypothesized and found support for a positive relationship between creativity and relativism. It appears that creative people are less likely than non-creative people to follow universal rules in their moral decision making. However, contrary to our hypothesis and the general stereotype that creative people are less caring about others, we found a positive relationship between creativity and idealism. These findings indicate that highly creative people are likely to be what Forsyth called “situationists,” individuals with both an ethic of caring and a pragmatic moral decision-making style. The finding that creative individuals tend to be situationists, and particularly that they tend to be high in idealism, appears to refute the line of reasoning that argues for a “creative personality” characterized in part by social insensitivity. Understanding the relationship between creativity and ethical ideologies has important implications for researchers, managers and teachers.


creativity decision-making divergent thinking ethical ideologies ethics idealism morality relativism business ethics 


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This research benefitted from grants provided by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and by the James Madison University Center for Entrepreneurship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul E. BierlyIII
    • 1
  • Robert W. Kolodinsky
    • 1
  • Brian J. Charette
    • 1
  1. 1.James Madison University HarrisonburgU.S.A.

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