An Essentialist Account of Authenticity

Journal of Cognition and Culture 16 (3-4):294-321 (2016)
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The concept of authenticity is central to how people value many different types of objects and yet there is considerable disagreement about how individuals evaluate authenticity or how the concept itself should be defined. This paper attempts to reconcile previous approaches by proposing a novel view of authenticity. Specifically, I draw upon past research on psychological essentialism and propose that when people evaluate the authenticity of objects, they do so by evaluating the extent to which the object embodies or reflects a valued essence. I suggest that this explanation of authenticity provides an overarching framework that describes how people evaluate object authenticity across a variety of contexts and I report the results of three experiments that directly test the predictions made by this explanation.



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