Culture and Creativity: Understanding the Role of Uncertainty Avoidance and Multicultural Experience
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Research on culture and creativity has shown cultural differences in creative performance among Western and Eastern individuals such that Westerners consistently outperform Easterners on certain creative tasks. Theorists have postulated that such differences are due to the existence of two separate aspects of creativity: novel and practical creativity. Cultures do not emphasise the two different aspects of creativity equally – Westerners place more importance on novelty while Easterners place more importance on practicality. Previous research examining culture and creativity has mainly focused on the novelty aspect of creativity, an aspect of creativity that is mostly emphasized in the West; thus, partially addressing the culture-based creative performance differences. However, we lack empirical research examining specific mechanisms that explain cultural differences in the conceptualization of creativity as well as creative outcomes. The current dissertation first investigates factors that explain the cultural variations in the conceptualization of creativity and creative performance, and then tests the role of multicultural experience as a factor that will help to reduce the noted performance difference. Study 1 examines the relationship between culture and preferences placed on novelty versus practicality in the conceptualization of creativity as well as the amount of evaluation focus given across Asian Canadian (Eastern) and Caucasian Canadian (Western) samples. Study 1 also tests the mediating role of three specific cultural values (individualism/collectivism, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance). Study 2 replicates results from Study 1 and examines the moderating role of multicultural experience on explicit attitudes toward novel and practical creativity and the ability to recognize creative ideas between Western and Eastern cultures. Study 3 extends results of Study 2 by examining the impact of multicultural experience on novel creativity in terms of idea generation in a native Chinese sample living in China. Study 4 examines the causal effect of multicultural experience on creative evaluation focus and the ability to recognize creative ideas between both cultures by experimentally manipulating multicultural experience. Consistent with previous research, results show that Asian Canadian individuals held a stronger preference towards idea practicality than Caucasian Canadian individuals and Caucasian Canadian individuals held a stronger preference towards idea novelty than Asian Canadians. Uncertainty avoidance explained the underlying relationship between culture and creativity such that high levels of uncertainty avoidance led to less preference towards idea novelty. Similar to findings from Study 1, Study 2 found that uncertainty avoidance mediated the relationship between culture and explicit attitudes towards novelty creativity. It was also shown that multicultural experience boosted the explicit attitudes toward novelty for Asian Canadian participants. The beneficial effects of multicultural experience were generalized in Study 3 where participants with more exposure to different cultures generated more novel ideas. Finally, it was shown in Study 4 that experimentally manipulated multicultural experience affected both Asian Canadian and Caucasian Canadian participants’ evaluation focus such that participants focused more on the aspect of creativity that is less emphasized in their native culture. In an exploratory analysis, it was found that multicultural experience enhanced novel creativity especially for those with high uncertainty avoidance. Overall, findings provide tangible recommendations for creativity and innovation in a globalized world.