The Case of the Evil Genius

The Huffington Post:

Professor James Moriarty had only a brief literary career, but his persona looms much larger than his deeds. Criminal mastermind and archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, the professor is remembered today as the archetypal evil genius. The same penetrating intellect that made Moriarty a mathematical prodigy also made him — in Holmes’ words — “the controlling brain of the underworld.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s villain is not the only figure to embody both criminality and creativity. The mix of wit and deviltry has long fascinated storytellers, and today its intrigue is drawing the attention of psychological scientists as well. What do dishonesty and wit have in common, that they so readily occupy the same mind? Does creativity lead to unethical behavior, or do cheating and lying spur the imagination? Is creativity just a socially acceptable form of violating norms and breaking the rules?

Francesca Gino of the Harvard Business School is on the case, with some sleuthing assistance from Scott Wiltermuth of USC’s Marshall School of Business. The duo knew from previous work that creative thinking can sometimes nudge people toward questionable ethical decisions, but they were more interested in looking at it the other way around. Can nefarious behavior actually enhance creativity? They devised a series of experiments to untangle this ethical mystery.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology. Follow Wray on Twitter @wrayherbert.

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