Charlan J. Nemeth
Professor of the Graduate School
3327 Tolman Hall
Ph.D., Cornell University
Research Area: 
Secondary Research Area: 
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
Social: influence processes; social interaction; dissent and cognition; decision making and creativity in small groups and organizations: psychology of entrepreneurs and creative scientists
  • whatshotResearch Description

    The Value of Dissent
    For many years, we have done research on how initial minority views come to prevail. This has meant a consideration of "how" they exercise influence in terms of the choreography of their verbal and nonverbal persuasive styles. For the past two decades however, we have concentrated on the value of dissent for cognition and decision making. In general, we find that dissent stimulates thought that is broader, that takes in more information and that, on balance, leads to better decisions and more creative solutions. A related line of research has investigated the devil's advocate technique. In general, no role playing technique stimulates divergent thinking as does authentic dissent.

    Creativity in Individuals, Groups and Organizations
    The work on dissent led to an interest in creativity per se and in recent work, we have investigated creativity across 3 levels.

    Individual: our research on individual creativity has included a 3 year project interviewing a series of Nobel laureates in Physics and Chemistry. A current project is investigating successful entrepreneurs.

    Group: we have been conducting numerous studies on the brainstorming technique. Much of our work has challenged the "rules" of brainstorming. For example, we find that the rule "not to criticize" another's ideas is distracting and actually has the unintended consequence of thwarting creative ideas. In fact, we find that guidelines need to be framed as suggestions. Rules, regardless of content, tend to inhibit the playfulness and the generation of numerous ideas.

    Organizational: current projects involve the study and analysis of corporate cultures that encourage "voice" and communication about problems. Most advice on corporate cultures emphasizes the importance of harmony and cohesiveness and some of our research has investigated the efficacy of such "cult like" cultures. Our own emphasis has been on innovative cultures, "start ups"- those that invite passion, few rules, and creative thought.

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  • placeSelected Publications

    Nemeth, C. (1981). Jury trials: Psychology and the law. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 14, pp. 309-367). New York: Academic Press

    Nemeth, C. J. (1986). The differential contributions of majority and minority influence. Psychological Review, 93, 23-32. Reprinted in M.Hogg (ed) Sage Benchmarks in Psychology: Social Psychology. 2002.

    Nemeth, C. J., & Staw, B. M. (1989). The tradeoffs of social control and innovation within groups and organizations. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 22, pp. 175-210). New York: Academic Press.

    Nemeth, C. (1995). Dissent as driving cognition, attitudes and judgments. Social Cognition, 13, 273-291.

    Nemeth, C. (1997). Managing Innovation: When Less is More. California Management Review, 40, 59-74.

    Nemeth, C.J., & Nemeth, L. (2001). Understanding the creative process: Management of the knowledge worker. In J. Nonaka and D. J. Teece (Eds.), Managing industrial knowledge. London: Sage Publications, pp. 91-104.

    Nemeth, C., Rogers, J., & Brown, K. (2001). "Devil's advocate vs. authentic dissent: Stimulating quantity and quality." European Journal of Social Psychology, 31,707-720.

    Nemeth, C.J. (2002) Minority dissent and its "hidden" benefits. New Review of Social Psychology, 2, 21-28.

    Nemeth, C.J. and Nemeth-Brown, B.(2003) Better than Individuals? The potential benefits of dissent and diversity for group creativity (2001). In P. Paulus and B. Nijstad (eds) Group Creativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Nemeth, C., Personnaz, M., Personnaz, B. and Goncalo, J. (2004) The Liberating Role of Conflict in Group Creativity: A cross-cultural study. Submitted to European Journal of Social Psychology. 34, 365-374

    Nemeth, C.J. and Goncalo, J.A. (2005) Influence and persuasion in small groups. In T.C. Brock and M.C. Green (Eds.), Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives. London: Sage Publications, pp. 171-194.

    Nemeth, C.J. and Ormiston, M. (2007) Creative Idea Generation: Harmony versus Stimulation. European Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 524-535.

    Nemeth, C.J. (2009) Minority Influence Theory. In P. Van Lange, A. Kruglanski and T. Higgins (eds) Handbook of Theories in Social Psychology. New York: Sage. In press.

    Nemeth,C.J. and Goncalo, J.A. (2009) Rogues and Heroes: Finding Value in Dissent. In J . Jetten and M. Hornsey (eds) Rebels in Groups: Dissent, Deviance, Difference and Defiance. Oxford University Press. In press.

    Publications in Preparation:

    Nemeth, C.(2007) Those Nobel Laureates. A book on the creative process over time based on 12-hour interviews with each of 5 Nobel Laureates in Physics and Chemistry.

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