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Inauthenticity aversion: Consumer reactance toward tainted actors, actions, and objects, Consumer Psychology Review


Theories of authenticity usually try to explain what leads consumers to see something as authentic. Here, we address the inverse question instead: What makes a brand, individual, or product seem inauthentic? This shift in focus reveals a distinct psychology that is more than just the absence or inverse of responses to authenticity. Whereas authenticity typically confers meaning and value, invoking inauthenticity typically implies the detection of a moral violation. Specifically, consumers judge an entity to be inauthentic if they perceive a mismatch between what that entity claims to be (e.g., a socially responsible apparel brand, 100% orange juice) and what it really is upon closer scrutiny. Such judgments give rise to a powerful, non-compensatory reactance we term inauthenticity aversion. We segment inauthenticity violations into three principle types: deceptions, ulterior motives, and adulterations. This conceptualization allows us to capture a wide variety of inauthenticity cases and outline psychological commonalities across them. It also helps to explain the powerful outrage consumers display at perceived inauthenticity and illuminates potential hazards in common marketing approaches.




Ike Silver, Deborah Small

Date Published



Silver, Ike, and Deborah Small. 2021. Inauthenticity aversion: Consumer reactance toward tainted actors, actions, and objects. Consumer Psychology Review.


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