People should 'trust their gut' when spotting fake products

Woman carrying many handbagsA study suggests that people should trust their intuition when deciding whether a product is counterfeit or authentic, particularly if they are experts in the field.

The researchers from Rice University, George Mason University and Boston College in the US were trying to establish which tasks were conducive to intuitive decision-making, and in one study looked at how effective college students were in distinguishing between genuine and fake designer handbags.

The researchers assessed the participants' expertise based on the total number of Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags each participant owned and determined that owning more than three made them an "expert" in the terms of this study.

A total of 239 male and female undergraduates were asked to judge the authenticity of Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags - either brand new or slightly used - based on sight but not touch. The team deliberately chose fake handbags that were as similar as possible to their authentic designer counterparts.

Participants were split into an intuitive group and an analytical group, according to the researchers, who have published their work in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

The intuition group was given five seconds to view each handbag and told to base their decisions entirely on their first impression, while the analytical group was told to ignore any first impressions or gut instincts and base their decisions on observations and analysis.

Prior to the task, participants in the analysis group were given two minutes to list the features they would look for to determine whether a given handbag was real or fake, such as material, stitching and colour. This group was given 30 seconds to make their decision for each bag.

Intuition proved to be far more effective than analysis - at least for those subjects who were considered to be experts. For those relying on analysis condition, prior ownership of designer handbags did not seem to confer any advantage.

"In some cases analytical procedures may stymie the benefits of intuition and prevent experts from identifying or pursuing otherwise obvious solutions," say the authors, although they note this depends on the nature of the task involved.

"Tasks that can be solved through predetermined steps, like math problems, are not as conducive to intuitive decision-making as less-structured tasks," commented lead author Erik Dane, assistant professor of management at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business.

When should I trust my gut? Linking domain expertise to intuitive decision-making effectiveness (registration required for full text).

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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