For those wearing fakes, a new study asks just exactly who’s fooling who.

April 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Compared to the long list of reasons people use to justify counterfeit purchases, the waiting list for the iPad is tiny.

Certain buyers who aspire to the lifestyle that the brands symbolize will turn their coin purses inside out for fakes.

Others choose to buy the bogus baubles to get a little jolt from doing something illegal, which is as impressive as a low-rent adrenaline junkie wearing water wings in a wave pool.

There couldn’t be a worse way to emulate an authentic lifestyle than to buy a counterfeit version of it.

Faux frocks and sham goods offer a connection to authentic luxury that’s as sturdy as a balsa wood bridge strung across a gorge in an action flick. It’s all splinters and splashdowns.

The number of ways people are able to justify this kind of behavior is frustrating in its endlessness and endlessly frustrating. But if we boil it down to a single characteristic, the reason people are willing to go to great lengths to buy a fake, to wait in dank rooms that double as rodent latrines and stroll around back alleys, is because they are lazy.

It’s easier to fill that void of self-esteem with a fake than to earn an authentic piece of craftsmanship.

But the easy route is also a dangerous one. While we know counterfeitsing hurts many people who manufacture and sell the goods, a recent study has shown that buying fakes can damage the buyer as well.

And it’s not just a question of Karma.

Back in December, the NY Times Magazine recapped the best concepts from the previous year in its annual “Year in Ideas” section and mentioned two of our friend Dan Ariely’s papers.

One of his works, The Counterfeit Self, written with fellow psychologists Francesca Gino and Michael Norton (from the Universities of North Carolina and Harvard, respectively) tackled how wearing counterfeit items can alter behavior.

The research explained how wearing a fake can actually make a person act less ethically.

Put briefly, after subjects donned designer sunglasses that were selected from boxes labeled ‘counterfeit’ and ‘authentic,’ they were asked to perform tasks in situations where cheating would be easy.

It turns out that high percentages – greater than 70 percent – of the participants who knowingly wore the fake glasses cheated.

Speaking to the New York Times Magazine, Dr. Gino summed up the phenomenon quite well: “When one feels like a fake, he or she is likely to behave like a fake.”

If someone is aware of the abuse that counterfeiting causes and buy fakes anyway, it’s fair to say that their ethical tank that is already dangerously close to E. As this new study suggests, if they’re also wearing the impostor gear on a regular basis, it’s definitely time to pull over and fill up, or else they’ll end up stranded in desert with nothing but a fake parasol for cover.

Then again, a little time baking in the sun might do them some good.

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