Illuminating the dark side of creative expression: Assimilation needs and the consequences of creative action following mortality salience

Jamie Arndt, Clay Routledge, Jeff Greenberg, Kennon M. Sheldon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

19 Scopus citations


Previous research indicates that mortality salience and creative behavior combine to increase feelings of guilt, presumably over the disruption to social connection elicited by the call for innovative expression. The present studies examined whether satiating assimilation motives by highlighting conformity to others reduces this effect (Study 1) and facilitates positive psychological engagement (Study 2). Study 1 used a 2 (conformity vs. neutral feedback) × 2 (mortality salience vs. control) × 2 (creative task vs. noncreative task) design and had participants complete a self-report measure of guilt. Study 2 used a 2 (mortality salience vs. control) × 2 (other goal task vs. self-goal task) design, and after a creativity exercise, had participants complete measures of positive mood, vitality, and creative problem solving. Results indicated attending to assimilation needs reduced the elevated guilt that follows the juxtaposition of mortality salience and creative behavior and also increased a sense of positive engagement. Implications are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1327-1339
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005



  • Creativity
  • Emotions
  • Growth motivation
  • Terror management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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