The cost of freedom: Creative ideation boosts both feelings of autonomy and the fear of judgment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heeding growing calls to investigate the downstream consequences of being creative for psychological well-being, we propose that the consequences of creativity can be a double-edged sword—boosting feelings of autonomy while at the same time triggering a fear of judgment. In three pre-registered experiments (N = 740), participants were asked to generate either creative or non-creative ideas. Participants in the creative (vs. non-creative) condition reported feeling a higher sense of autonomy while completing the task (Study 1). This feeling of autonomy emerged because participants instructed to generate creative ideas were able to cross multiple idea domains and cross idea boundaries during the process (Studies 2 and 3). However, creative ideation also increased evaluation apprehension because the freedom to think divergently affords the opportunity for choice, which heightens the fear of judgment (Study 3). We discuss the implications of our findings for the promise and peril of creative ideation as a psychological intervention to improve well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104432
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Autonomy
  • Creativity
  • Evaluation apprehension
  • Open data
  • Open materials
  • Pre-registered

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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