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Free Individuals Spur into Creative Action by Rejection

Update Date: Aug 22, 2012 05:08 AM EDT

They often show in movies how nerds get their revenge by getting ahead of everyone else and doing better than others. That's true, says research.

According to a study by Professor Sharon Kim at John Hopkins University, social rejection can inspire imaginative thinking, especially in those who consider themselves different from others and sense of their own independence. 

"For people who already feel separate from the crowd, social rejection can be a form of validation," says Kim, lead author of the study."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." 

However, social rejection might do just the opposite for people who cling to a group. It slows down their cognitive ability. 

According to Kim, this finding is a result of a number of psychological studies over the years. Kim, along with co-authors, Lynne Vincent and Jack Goncalo of Cornell University, decided to go ahead with studying and understanding the impact of rejection on people who consider themselves different from others. In terms of this study, such people are described as possessing an "independent self-concept." 

"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, Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Cornell.

Also, the authors say that the findings are beneficial for those managers who want to employ imaginative thinkers and maximize creativity.

A job candidate, who has an unconventional personality and might get rejected for an interview, may be very inventive and may be able to contribute to the company.

In the long term, Kim adds, a creative person with an independent self-concept might even be said to thrive on rejection.

While getting rejected repeatedly may act as a discouragement to someone who longs for inclusion, a similar situation may recharge the creativity of an independent person. An independent person says Kim, "could see a successful career trajectory, in contrast with the person who is inhibited by social rejection."

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