Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finally. A Working Theory About Extra-Marital Affairs in Second Life.

As Mazar et al. (2008) proposed, the ability of most people to behave dishonestly might be bounded by their ability to cheat and at the same time feel that they are behaving as moral individuals. To the extent that creativity allows people to more easily behave dishonestly and rationalize this behavior, creativity might be a more general driver of this type of dishonesty and play a useful role in understanding unethical behavior. from The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can be More Dishonest by Francesca Gino and Dan Ariel
Second Life has a reputation as both a vital creative community and a hotbed of extra-marital virtual affairs. A new working paper does a pretty convincing job of tying those two seemingly disconnected aspects together. The condensed version is that the same flexible thinking that fuels out-of-the-box thinking in areas such as art or science, tends to also be applied in questions of ethics and morals.

I approached the paper with a lot of skepticism. But after reading through it and reflecting on the numerous conversations I've had with people who justify Second Life affairs through extremely creative rationales, I suspect the theory explains al least part of the phenomenon.

9 comments:

Fun Lover said...

cool

ahuva18 said...

I am reading through this paper. I suspect I will have to make more than one attempt because already I am resisting what it says. Is it saying that creative people are NOT moral or ethical, ipso facto?

Carrie Lexington said...

i skimmed through the paper and I'm confused about what it is saying...creative=unethical/immoral/dishonest?

but in the context of your post...

I wouldn’t classify this out-of-the-box thinking in areas such as art or science the same "flexible thinking" when it comes to ethics and morals. I think it’s more about people thinking outside of the box when it comes to traditional societal institutions like marriage, or the nuclear family, etc…which may look dishonest based on the societal norm. I think that’s an important distinction to make.

Ethics and morals are highly personal and not finite, and therefore not something that one would think “outside” of.

Chestnut Rau said...

What Carrie said.....

ELQ said...

I think maybe it's backwards..just my own observation shows that the unethical activity happens and as a result of either the activity itself or getting caught, one suddenly becomes incredibly creative.

Botgirl Questi said...

The title of the paper caught my eye because I saw it after a long string of conversations I'd had over the course of a couple of days on the topic creativity, all focused on its "gifts". Although I had the same kind of initial knee-jerk negative reaction many of you probably had, co-author Dan Ariely has done a lot of interesting research exposing counter-intuitive aspects of human behavior and motivation.

After reading the paper and reflecting on my own personal experience, I have to admit that the ability to think "outside the box" can contribute to questionable ethical choices in a couple of ways.

- As the paper recounts, it allows one to more easily reinterpret a situation's ethical meaning to fit self-serving interests.

-Creativity itself is amoral. Take humor, for instance. A creative joke that springs to mind can be appropriate or inappropriate in a particular setting. If you're creative in that way, you really can't help what pops into your brain. Although many of us have the good sense to keep our mind shut before sharing out little racist/sexist/profane/etc. jewel at work/church/school/etc., sometimes our love of our darling wit blinds us to the consequences.

The paper isn't saying that all creative people are lying scoundrels, just that we carry some sharp tools and should pay attention to how we use them. Personally, I think an ounce of self-reflection is worth more than a pound of denial.

Timber Oceanlane said...

Napoleon Hill’s 1937 classic book, “Think and Grow Rich” has a chapter titled, “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation” . The book is based on extensive interviews with hundreds of the most successful men of the time, taking place over the preceding 20+ years.

Hill suggests the “sex desire is the most powerful of human desires.” But also that the emotion of sex can be directed, consciously or sub consciously, to other constructive purposes, such as to “transform mediocrity to genius.”

“Sex transmutation is…the switching of the mind from thoughts of physical expression, to thoughts of some other nature.”

http://www.sacred-texts.com/nth/tgr/tgr16.htm

I bring this concept to the discussion not as an excuse for someone having an extra-marital affair in SL, but as further insight to consider along with the ideas presented in “The Darker Side of Creativity” because, as Carrie said, “Ethics and morals are highly personal and not finite…”

So is honesty really at issue? I suppose it depends on what your definition of “is” is :)

Botgirl Questi said...

Timber: The connection between creativity and the sex drive is really interesting. To paraphrase McLuhan, I don't necessarily believe everything I post. ;)

Timber Oceanlane said...

Yes, well that creativity and sex drive could have a relationship is an interesting idea. Whatever you're doing; torturing a prim or a block of wood into just the right shape, or spewing out just the right words into a poem, song, story, book or blog; if you bring passion to the task the offspring can sometimes be creative genius... believable if you're in tune with the universe that day.

But if you're tuned to A and the universe is playing in the key of C that day, well then, maybe not so much. You seem to be mostly in tune is why i take the time to read your blog, and hope my comments aren't off key:)