New research suggests that independently minded persons can use social rejection as an impetus for out-of-the box, innovative thinking.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University believe that “for those who already feel separate from the crowd, social rejection can be a form of validation,” said Sharon Kim, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.
“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, for those who value group membership, social rejection has the opposite effect: It inhibits their cognitive ability.
Kim said numerous psychological studies over the years have made this finding.
In the study, she and her co-authors decided to consider the impact of rejection on people who take pride in being different from the norm. Such individuals, in a term from the study, 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,” said Kim.
Kim said the paper has practical implications for business because of the desire among managers to employ imaginative thinkers who can maximize creativity.
A company might want to take a second look at a job candidate whose unconventional personality might make him an easy target for rejection, but whose inventiveness would be a valuable asset to the organization.
In the long term, Kim adds, the creative person with an independent self-concept might even be said to thrive on rejection.
This understanding of personality types is significant as repeated rejection may discourage and even depress an individual who values being part of the crowd. However, repeated snubs could continually recharge the creativity of an independent person.
The latter type, said Kim, “could see a successful career trajectory, in contrast with the person who is inhibited by social rejection.”
Source: Johns Hopkins University