When The Uniqueness Brings Us Together: How Initial Cues of Uniqueness Influence Creative Collaborations

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Gong, Qing
Liu, Dong
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While diverse perspectives benefit collaborations in generating creative outcomes, people generally tend to favor and connect based on similarities. To unpack this seeming dilemma, this research examines whether, how, and when initial cues demonstrating individuals’ uniqueness, meaning rare and distinct features in a social environment, influence perceivers’ intention to collaborate with them on creative projects. Drawing from the associative-propositional evaluation (APE) theory and the signaling perspective, I propose that people are likely to gravitate towards collaborators who display cues of uniqueness in initial interactions. When seeking collaborators for creative endeavors based on limited information in early interactions, initial cues of uniqueness may trigger positive associations and thus liking for the displayer and signal creative potential, leading to perceivers’ greater creative collaboration intention. Furthermore, the perceiver’s need for uniqueness, the displayer’s competence-based status, and cultural tightness in the social environment can influence the effectiveness of cues of uniqueness. This research leverages experimental methodology to test the psychological mechanisms and examines the phenomenon using large-scale archival data of scientists’ publication and collaboration records. The experimental studies generally support the hypotheses except for the moderating effect of cultural tightness. Analyses based on the archival data yield mixed findings regarding the relationship between an initial cue of uniqueness (i.e., name uniqueness) and scientists’ likelihood of building creative collaborations. Theoretical implications on the interpersonal outcomes of uniqueness and creative collaborations and practical implications for leveraging cues of uniqueness are discussed.
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