Social context: Key to understanding culture's effects on creativity



This paper proposes that the social context moderates the effect of culture on creativity by drawing on the constructivist dynamic approach. We assess creativity by the level of fluency, originality, and elaboration on the usefulness and appropriateness of ideas in three contexts: working under a supervisor, in a group, and alone. We hypothesized that in high power distance cultures, working under a supervisor inhibits creativity, whereas in individualistic cultures, the presence of peers attenuates creativity. Results from two parallel experiments, one in the United States (N = 79) and the other in China (N = 83), partially support the hypotheses. The Chinese originality level was significantly lower when working under a supervisor than when working alone. American subjects generated fewer ideas and elaborated less when working in the presence of peers and elaborated less in the presence of peers than when under a supervisor. We conclude that the social context moderates the culture–creativity relationship by making consensual cultural values more accessible in a social context than when working alone. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.