RedEye

The benefits of rejection

Social rejection can be devastating. But according to a new study released by Johns Hopkins University, being left out can also help boost the creativity and imagination for those who already feel separate from the crowd.

"We found that social rejection of independent thinkers can actually be a form of validation," said Sharon Kim, a Johns Hopkins Carey Business School assistant professor and the study's lead author. "I think for these people who already feel different — it sort of confirms something that they already feel about themselves and that isn't necessarily negative."

Kim's study included 223 University students (age 20) in three separate experiments. In one of the experiments, students were told they would be taking part in a group test. Once they arrived, some of the students were told that nobody chose to work with them. After receiving the rejection, they were then given cognitive tasks or work puzzles.

"For the individuals with a strong sense of independence, the results showed that they behaved more creatively," she said. "The rejection actually frees them — disinhibits them — so they are free to be inspired by whatever and not worry what other people think."

For those people who value belonging to a group, social rejection can inhibit cognitive ability and memory, Kim said.

"I think in our society there does still seem to be a great insistence on fitting in and I think that maybe our study is one piece of evidence that shows that you don't have to fit in and sometimes you can get good things out of being a square peg in a round hole," she said.

Kim said the study came to mind after seeing an overwhelming amount of bullying stories in the news. While the findings could be helpful for parents and teens, Kim feels the information could also be useful for today's business leaders.

"There's been a surge of interest in creativity in certain corporations but I think the selection and hiring practices don't necessarily reflect hiring people that might actually be more creative than others," she said. "We still see that sort of 'fitting in' mentality when we hire. But I think we have some room to shift as a culture and a society — to be able to think more independently and not be so afraid to be different. I think we could all benefit from understanding the value of being not just like everybody else."

In a world where many feel pressure to be accepted, Kim said she hopes her findings will encourage people to celebrate their unique qualities rather than try to change them to please others.

"This shows that there is a constructive alternative to what many would think of as a negative circumstance," Kim said. "For the socially rejected, creativity may be the best revenge."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Chicago's ban on plastic bags starts to take effect at many big stores Saturday, but an alderman who helped craft the law already is talking about changing it in order to thwart a few large retail chains that he says are trying to skirt the new rules.

  • State police: Man shot while riding in van on Eisenhower

    State police: Man shot while riding in van on Eisenhower

    A man was shot multiple times while traveling in a minivan on the inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday morning, authorities said.

  • Lollapalooza liquor gardening: fact or fiction?

    Lollapalooza liquor gardening: fact or fiction?

    It may sound like an urban legend: Music festival-goers bury bottles of booze in Chicago parks, plot a GPS location for the goods and uncover them days later when the festival comes alive.

  • Chicago plans to cut O'Hare noise by rotating runways at night

    Chicago plans to cut O'Hare noise by rotating runways at night

    The Emanuel administration on Friday will propose an experiment at O'Hare International Airport to rotate the runways used late at night, possibly on a weekly basis, to spread out jet noise, the city's aviation chief told the Chicago Tribune.

  • Almost 6 acres of land added near Fullerton Avenue Beach

    Almost 6 acres of land added near Fullerton Avenue Beach

    Along Chicago's lakefront at Fullerton Avenue Beach, cranes rolled along a causeway that only a few months ago was part of the lake itself. Every day this summer, roughly 40 construction workers are filling in Lake Michigan with dredged material and gravel, which will eventually add up to 5.8 acres...

  • Doughnut panic

    I'm not ashamed to admit that for the past several years, I have mapped my walk to work around which doughnut shop I'd like an excuse to stop at on the way. There's nothing like the thought of a crunchy, craggy old fashioned doughnut or the sweet, yeasty chew of a classic glazed doughnut to help...

Comments
Loading
89°