Counterfeit Fashion Turns People Into Cheaters

Everyone knows that the counterfeit goods industry is not a good one. Fake products are produced illegally, in factories with substandard work conditions and no industry group to police them. Goods are often smuggled in via the same crime syndicates that traffic drugs, and the bags themselves are products of stolen copyrights. But what most people don’t know is that purchasing these goods will actually make you a worse person.

According to a recent study at the University of North Carolina, wearing fake fashion makes people feel like a fraud, which, in turn, makes them more likely to commit fraud.

Discovery magazine reports:

In her first experiment, [Professor Francesca] Gino told volunteers that they were going to wear a pair of real of fake designer sunglasses while doing certain tasks. Their job was to test out the glasses. In reality, all the eyewear on offer was real and each cost a princely $300. But even though everyone had the same shades, the volunteers who thought they were wearing the fake ones were more likely to cheat in the tests.

The results are pretty shocking. Over 71% of those who thought they were wearing fake sunglasses cheated on their test, while only 30% of those who were wearing real ones did.

And that’s not all. Wearing counterfeit goods also made people more likely to assume others were acting dishonestly.

Compared to those wearing real sunglasses, volunteers who wore counterfeits said that people they knew were more likely to act dishonestly, from taking home office stationery to inflating an expenses claim. And given fictional scenarios involving moral choices, the counterfeit-wearers were more likely than their peers to think that other people would behave unethically. It seems that people who wear fake goods interpret the actions of others through a lens of dishonesty.

Gino had participants also fill out questionnaires that analyzed how they felt about themselves. Statements that participants had to rank according to how they felt included, “Right now, I feel as if I don’t know myself very well” or “Right now, I feel out of touch with the real me.”

And it turns out that people who felt badly about themselves were far more likely to do, well, bad things.

It’s really hard to believe that something as simple as wearing fake sunglasses would have such a bankrupting effect on one’s morals, but it’s an interesting case nonetheless. Gino admits that a laboratory setting is very different from the real world, and I can’t help but think that these results were so polarized because of the vacuum-like setting. If people know that their actions have no consequences, they’re probably more likely to act in their own best interests; cheat to score better, pick the answer that gives them more money, etc.

What do you think?

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