Social rejection can fuel imaginative thinking
Like the Toby Keith song “How Do You Like Me Now?”, a new study shows that social rejection can inspire imaginative thinking, particularly in individuals with a strong sense of their own independence. Your hit song, formulaic breakthrough, artistic masterpiece, or marketing idea is just a little rejection away.
“Rejection confirms for independent people what they already feel about themselves: that they’re not like others. For such people, that distinction is a positive one leading them to greater creativity,” says Johns Hopkins Carey Business School assistant professor Sharon Kim, the study’s lead author. Sounds like a twisted form of validation, but validation it is, the study paper, “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought?”, reveals.
However, social rejection has the opposite effect on people who value belonging to a group: it inhibits their cognitive ability. “We’re seeing in society a growing concern about the negative consequences of social rejection, thanks largely to media reports about bullying that occurs at school, in the workplace, and online. Obviously, bullying is reprehensible and produces nothing good. What we tried to show in our paper is that exclusion from a group can sometimes lead to a positive outcome when independently-minded people are the ones being excluded,” says Kim.
In the business world, this sense of rejection breeding creativity is ever-present in the entrepreneurial communities, where founders are encouraged to fail early and fail often; founders with four, five, six failings under their belts are admired as resilient.
The next time you feel rejected—by friends, a potential lover, a job—maybe that’s the time to take on your next creative project!