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Greater variability in judgements of the value of novel ideas


Understanding the factors that hinder support for creative ideas is important because creative ideas fuel innovation—a goal prioritized across the arts, sciences and business. Here we document one obstacle faced by creative ideas: as ideas become more novel—that is, they depart more from existing norms and standards—disagreement grows about their potential value. Specifically, across multiple contexts, using both experimental methods (four studies, total n = 1,801) and analyses of archival data, we find that there is more variability in judgements of the value of more novel (versus less novel) ideas. We also find that people interpret greater variability in others’ judgements about an idea’s value as a signal of risk, reducing their willingness to invest in the idea. Our findings show that consensus about an idea’s worth diminishes the newer it is, highlighting one reason creative ideas may fail to gain traction in the social world.

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Fig. 1: Average standard deviation in film ratings a function of film category (study 2).
Fig. 2: Value standard deviation as a function of condition (study 4).
Fig. 3: Manipulation stimuli (study 5).
Fig. 4: Mediational model (study 5).

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Data availability

De-identified participant data for all studies are permanently and publicly available on the Open Science Framework at Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code to replicate the analyses in the manuscript and Supplementary Information is available permanently and publicly on the Open Science Framework at


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This research was supported by funds from the ILR School, Cornell University and an Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology theme grant from the Johnson College of Business, Cornell University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We are grateful to E. Mannix and the members of ExPO Lab for their feedback on this research. We thank S. Parry for advice on statistical analyses. We thank S. Owens for providing information about the film categories at Sundance.

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Authors and Affiliations



W.J. developed the study concept. W.J. and D.P. designed the studies. W.J. and D.P. collected and analysed the data. W.J. drafted the manuscript. D.P. revised the manuscript and prepared the final text for submission.

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Correspondence to Devon Proudfoot.

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Nature Human Behaviour thanks Samuel Hunter and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Table 1 and analyses for studies 4 and 5.

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Johnson, W., Proudfoot, D. Greater variability in judgements of the value of novel ideas. Nat Hum Behav 8, 471–479 (2024).

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