Charlan Jeanne Nemeth

Research Expertise and Interest

decision making, jury decision making, influence and persuasion, creativity in small groups, managing innovation in organizations, psychology of creative scientists and entrepreneurs, corporate cultures, diversity of team members, brainstorming, psychology and law

Research Description

The Value of Dissent
For many years, Charlan Nemeth has conducted 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, she and her collaborators have concentrated on the value of dissent for cognition and decision making. In general, they 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, that role playing technique does not stimulate divergent thinking or the quality of decisions and solutions as does authentic dissent.

Creativity in Individuals, Groups and Organizations
The work on dissent led to a related topic, ie. creativity. In recent work, she has investigated creativity across 3 levels.

Individual: 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: numerous studies on the brainstorming technique, much of which challenges the traditional "rules" of brainstorming. For example, the rule "not to criticize" another's ideas can have the unintended consequence of thwarting creative ideas. 

Organizational: projects have involved the study and analysis of corporate cultures that encourage "voice" and communication about problems in the organization. While most advice on corporate cultures emphasizes the importance of harmony and cohesiveness, the research shows the cult-like efficacy for execution of ideas but the downside for innovation. Rather, diversity of views and "voice" are characteristic of innovative cultures and start-ups--and are characterized by passion, few rules and creative thought.

More information at

Charlan Nemeth “In Defense of Troublemakers:the Power of Dissent in Life and Business” . Basic Books 2018.


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