The consequences of faking it

I’ve just caught a short video by the brilliant behavioural economist Dan Ariely who explains the surprising effect of wearing fake goods on the likelihood of us cheating and for on much we suspect that others are being dishonest.

Ariely is riffing on one of his recent studies that was led by psychologist Francesca Gino. It’ll shortly appear in Psychological Science but can read the full text online as a pdf.

The study involved asking people to wear real or fake designer sunglasses, when in reality they were all the genuine article. Interestingly, those wearing the supposedly fake shades behaved less honestly in subsequent tests and were more likely to suspect others of behaving unethically.

Ariely gives a brilliant account of the study but there’s an interesting aspect in the full paper which he doesn’t touch on so much. In the final experiment of the study, the researchers found that it was a change in attitude that seemed to drive the change in honesty.

Wearing the ‘fake’ sunglasses seemed to increase personal feelings of being inauthentic and these feeling of the ‘counterfeit self’ were most associated with changes in behaviour.

Participants who believed they were wearing imitation goods were more likely to agree with the sentiments “Right now, I don’t know how I really feel inside” and “Right now, I feel alienated from myself” and were more like to say that they felt “out of touch with the ‚Äòreal me‚Äô” and felt as if “I don‚Äôt know myself very well”.

The study suggests that fake goods change how we perceive ourselves and this relaxes our boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

The video is short and brilliantly explained and the study is fascinating.

Link to Dan Ariely video on the effect of faking it.
pdf of full text of scientific paper.

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