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 three studies, we show that individuals who hold an independent self-concept performed more creatively following social rejection relative to inclusion. We also show that this boost in creativity is mediated by a differentiation mindset, 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.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jack_goncalo/21/