The expatriate-creativity hypothesis: A longitudinal field test

The Tavistock Institute
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Relations, 2012, 65 (12), pp. 1515 - 1538
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While prior research suggests that the cognitive changes triggered by cross-cultural experiences can enhance an individuals creative-thinking abilities, this is yet to be verified through empirical field research. We draw on schema theory, and the principle of psychological dissonance experienced during cultural adaptation, to argue that expatriates undergo wholesale cognitive changes that can lead to enhanced creative-thinking abilities. We test this hypothesis by measuring changes in the creative-thinking abilities of a sample of expatriates over the first 12 months of their placement. When compared with a control group of non-expatriates, the expatriates showed significant increases in overall creative-thinking abilities and cognitive flexibility, although not originality, elaboration, or ideational fluency.
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