Creativity is vital in the contemporary business world. Drawing on the culture-as-situated-cognition theory, we investigate how language affects divergent thinking. We study multicultural bilinguals (Arabs in Israel) whose two languages reflect contrasting cultural mindsets: individualism (Hebrew) versus collectivism (Arabic). Theoretically, individualism is associated with novel thinking as it encourages autonomy of thought and action, whereas collectivism encourages compliance to social norms. We investigate the impact of language as a factor that may affect performance in divergent thinking tasks through its associated cultural mindset, distinguishing this from the effects of the speaker’s proficiency in the language. We expected that individualism induced by language (in this case, Hebrew) would promote greater originality in tasks demanding high, but not moderate, levels of ingenuity. Study 1 (N = 163) induced competing cultural mindsets using two cultural primes—language and task instructions—in a divergent thinking task. As hypothesized, Hebrew was associated with greater originality (uniqueness of ideas) but not fluency (number of ideas); and this pattern is specific to language, not the cultural prime induced by task instructions. Study 2 (N = 137) confirmed that the effect is stronger in tasks calling for greater ingenuity. Implications for language management in organizations are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Daphna Oyserman, Lilach Sagiv, and Meira Ben-Gad for their useful comments on earlier drafts of this article; They also thank Diana Jayyar, Ameena Adileh, Nadine Issa, Layan Mahameed, and Bayan Wattad for their help in developing research materials as well as in data collection and coding. This research was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation to Sharon Arieli (655/17) and a grant from the Asper Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Jerusalem School of Business Administration, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
© 2022. American Psychological Association
- cultural mindset
- divergent thinking
- individualism versus collectivism