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People Who Carry Counterfeit Goods Are More Likely to Lie & Cheat

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Image via <a href="http://iplot.typepad.com/iplot/2008/04/fake.html">iPlot</a>
Image via iPlot

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For anyone who's ever considered counterfeit luxury products harmless—after all, what's a fake Vuitton or Chanel bag, or some faux-logo Coach or Fendi?—Scientific American has a study in its new September issue that may make you reconsider. Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill, Harvard Business School, and Duke conducted a series of experiments that showed that people who wear (or believe they are wearing) counterfeit goods are also significantly more likely to cheat and lie. In one study, a large sample of women were given Chloe sunglasses—the glasses were real, but half the women were told they were fake—and asked to take a math quiz and grade themselves on the honor principle. The results were shocking:

The women who thought they were wearing the fake Chloé shades cheated more—considerably more. Fully 70 percent inflated their performance when they thought nobody was checking on them—and, in effect, stole cash from the coffer.
In another drill, the researchers posited a choice to a large sample of women—asking them to choose between two answers, one profitable (and wrong), and one correct (and less profitable).
Notably, the women wearing supposedly counterfeit goods cheated even though the “fake” sunglasses were randomly handed out, suggesting that it was not something about their self-image going into the study that led them to cheat. To the contrary, it was the very act of wearing the so-called knockoffs that was triggering the dishonesty.
Looks like counterfeit fashion isn't just about luxury corporations losing money—the scientists concluded that: "'Faking it' makes us feel like phonies and cheaters on the inside, and this alienated, counterfeit 'self' leads to cheating and cynicism in the real world."
· Faking it: why wearing designer knockoffs may have hidden psychological costs [Scientific American]