People who have a strong sense of self esteem and independence manage to overcome social rejection by being more creative, says a new study.
"For people who already feel separate from the crowd, social rejection can be a form of validation," says Johns Hopkins assistant professor Sharon Kim, who led the study.
"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," Kim was quoted as saying in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Conversely, social rejection has the opposite effect on people who value belonging to a group: It inhibits their cognitive ability. Kim says numerous psychological studies over the years have made this finding, according to a Johns Hopkins statement.
With her co-authors, Lynne Vincent and Jack Goncalo of Cornell University, she 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," said Kim.
"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, who earned her doctorate in organisational behaviour from Cornell.
Kim states that 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, the study concluded.