A Socio-Cultural Approach to Multicultural Experience: Why Interactions Matter for Creative Thinking but Exposures Don’t

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



As the Internet, globalization, and widespread international travel increase the prevalence of multicultural experiences (MCEs), the impact of these experiences on psychological states and organizational outcomes increasingly attract researchers’ interest. Enhanced creativity has been shown to be one of the positive impacts of MCE; however, current findings fall short of distinguishing different types of multicultural experiences towards the end of identifying which specific experiences enhance creativity. Rooted in socio-cultural theory, this research examines the influence of two types of MCE, multicultural interactions versus multicultural exposures, on creative thinking and the role of cognitive flexibility in this relationship. Results of two studies indicate that multicultural interactions rather than exposures are associated with enhanced creative thinking (Studies 1–2) and confirm cognitive flexibility as the mediating mechanism (Study 2). Implications for organizations and educational institutions are discussed.