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study finds people can’t tell when others are being authentic

People are usually confident in their ability to tell who is genuine and who is “a fake”.

However, a new study says that we can’t accurately identify who is being “real”.

Judgment of others’ authenticity is heavily biased and is not a thing we can actually rely on.

We often seek role models, leaders, and friends who are perceived to be “true”, sincere, and genuine — in one word, authentic, don’t we?

I am 100% certain that you, also, are confident in your ability to tell if a person is being genuine or when someone’s pretending — be it a new colleague, lifestyle influencer, that TikTok life coach, a witness on the stand, a political leader, or even a polished conspiracy theorist.

We’re all intuitive psychologists, running around assuming everyone is behaving that way because it’s ‘who they are’, said Erica Bailey, authenticity and social perception researcher from Columbia University.

However, though, can people really tell when someone is being authentic, or a phony? Note that authenticity is not always a lie, though.

The answer is simple: No.

At least according to a paper published in the May issue of Psychological Science. The paper, by E. Bailey and A. Levy from Columbia University, will be discussed in the rest of this post.

This research showed that although people “assume they can discern authenticity in others,” comparing self-rated and other-rated authenticity in randomized working teams tells a completely different story.

Perceived authenticity is very biased.

First, ratings of the authenticity of others were more positive than self-ratings.

Second, authentic raters rated other individuals as more authentic; raters were biased by their own authenticity.

And third, “meta-perceptions (expectations that other people will see you as authentic) were similarly uncorrelated with other ratings of authenticity.”

Authenticity matters to most of us. But, as the authors note, “If authenticity is used as a criterion for conferring status, societal value, and morality judgments,” then “perceived authenticity must be accurate.” Unfortunately, these studies showed it is hard to tell when someone is genuine.

Psychology Today speculates on why this is.

Perhaps artificiality is easier to observe than authenticity, just as it is easier to tell when someone is lying than being truthful.

Or maybe it is less difficult to fake authenticity than it is to be truly authentic.

What the results of these investigations clearly suggest is that we must be careful in making judgments about who is being genuine and who is a pretender — such as when judging friends, new coworkers, political candidates, or celebrity ex-partners in court like Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard (Objection! Leading. Hearsay!).

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