Would you consider an exaggeration to say that buying fake glasses could interfere on the ethical conduct of a person in other aspects of life? The major people could say yes, but the truth is that the use of the fakes acts in our unconsciousness in a more powerful manner than we may suppose. We became more subjected to cheat with the fake products.
In order to demonstrate how it may happen, Dan Ariely, economic psychologist and author of the book “The purest truth about dishonesty”, has made an interesting experience in Duke University. To do the test, he received an amount of trademarked sunglasses for women and recruited some women to participate on it.
The group of participants was divided in three parts: the first one received the guidance that each one should receive original sunglasses to use during a certain period and, following, should receive a simple task - which they would also execute using the glasses. The second group received the same guidance, with the difference that the glasses were informed to be fake, but much similar to the original ones. The third group was only guided to use the glasses during the experience, but with no information about the model being original or fake - i.e., a control group.
After using the glasses for a while, the participants of the three groups were forwarded to a local where they should do an exercise on the computer. In the screen, a square with an oblique cut has appeared, with many dots spared on both sides. For about one second, the screen flashed and the dots have changed its position. This has repeated many times and, to each one, the participants should point out the side which had more dots. In some situations, it was hard to realize this difference, in others the dots clearly has mostly concentrated in just one side.
On the first try, no incentive has been placed - just in purpose for the researchers achieve to measure the capacity that the participants have to do these estimations. Following, they should repeat sometimes the same task, but with the additional of an incentive: each time that they pressed the button which indicated the major concentration of dots to the left, they received 0,5 cents. When pressed the button indicating the right side with major concentration of dots, they received 5 cents. The difference on the reward was strictly to create the conflict of interests.
Generally, all of the women cheated in the answers, but those in the group with fake glasses cheated much more than the others. Besides, in their group, the cheat happened even in situations in which, obviously, the major concentration of dots were in the left side. I.e., they clearly cheated.
The same participants were also invited to do a test of mathematic matrices during a short period of time. To the end of the test, they should say how many answers were correct - whereas the examiners would check the matrices sheet in order to attest the veracity of the answer, but without the acknowledgment of the participants. In this context, the women of the group with original glasses cheated in 30% , those in the control group cheated in 42% and, at last, those in the group with fake glasses cheated in 74%of the occasions.
These changes of behavior due to a fake product is practically irrational, but is originated in something that the author of the book classifies as “signal to itself”. In a similar way to what happens, for example, when you buy food to a homeless and feels a strong welfare for reassuring to yourself a image of compassion and good character, the use of the fake items, unconsciously, lead us to believe that we are less legitimate - and this give us a breach to cheat.