Are You for Real? Perceptions of Authenticity Are Systematically Biased and Not Accurate

Psychol Sci. 2022 May;33(5):798-815. doi: 10.1177/09567976211056623. Epub 2022 Apr 28.


Can people accurately perceive who is authentic? Laypeople believe they can tell who is authentic, and they report that authenticity is an important attribute in others (Studies 1a and 1b; N = 369). However, when we directly tested the accuracy of perceived authenticity, we found no significant correlation between self- and other-rated authenticity in two cohorts of adult students in randomly assigned teams (Studies 2 and 3; 4,040 self-other observations). In addition, we found that perceived authenticity was biased in two ways: (a) Other-rated authenticity showed a positivity bias compared with self-ratings, and (b) other-rated authenticity was biased by the rater's own authenticity. In Study 3, we also investigated authenticity meta-perceptions; although people expect their authenticity to be accurately perceived by others, their meta-perceptions did not correlate with other-rated authenticity. That is, beliefs about the visibility of one's authenticity are similarly not accurate. Overall, we found no evidence that people can accurately identify who is authentic.

Keywords: authenticity; individual differences; open data; open materials; perception; social cognition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Perception*