Disambiguating Authenticity: Interpretations of Value and Appeal

Disambiguating Authenticity: Interpretations of Value and Appeal

By
Kieran O'Connor, Glenn R. Carroll, Balázs Kovács
PLOS ONE. June
26, 2017, Vol. 12, Issue 6

While shaping aesthetic judgment and choice, socially constructed authenticity takes on some very different meanings among observers, consumers, producers and critics. Using a theoretical framework positing four distinct meanings of socially constructed authenticity– type, moral, craft, and idiosyncratic–we aim to document empirically the unique appeal of each type. We develop predictions about the relationships between attributed authenticity and corresponding increases in the value ascribed to it through: (1) consumer value ratings, (2) willingness to pay, and (3) behavioral choice. We report empirical analyses from a research program of three multi-method studies using (1) archival data from voluntary consumer evaluations of restaurants in an online review system, (2) a university-based behavioral lab experiment, and (3) an online survey-based experiment. Evidence is consistent across the studies and suggests that perceptions of four distinct subtypes of socially constructed authenticity generate increased appeal and value even after controlling for option quality. Findings suggest additional directions for research on authenticity.