How Counterfeits Infect Genuine Products: The Role of Moral Disgust

Moty Amar, Dan Ariely, Ziv Carmon, Haiyang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We argue that moral disgust toward counterfeiting can degrade both the efficacy of products perceived to be counterfeits and that of genuine products resembling them. Five studies support our propositions and highlight the infectious nature of counterfeiting: Perceiving a product as a counterfeit made disgust more mentally accessible, and led participants to disinfect the item more and reduce how long they remained in physical contact with it (Study 1). Participants who perceived a mouse as a counterfeit, performed less well in a computer game using the mouse and expressed greater moral disgust, which mediated lowered performance (Study 2). Exposure to a supposedly counterfeit fountain pen in an unrelated prior task infected participants’ performance using a genuine ballpoint pen resembling the “counterfeit;” individual differences in moral attitudes moderated the effect (Study 3). Exposure to a supposedly counterfeit mouse infected performance with a genuine mouse of the same brand; moral disgust mediated this effect (Study 4). Finally, moral disgust mediated lowered efficacy of a supposed counterfeit and that of a genuine item resembling the “counterfeit” (Study 5).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-343
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Journal of Consumer Psychology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Society for Consumer Psychology.


Received 1 December 2016; accepted 24 January 2018 Available online 10 February 2018 The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support by Ono Academic College, Duke University, INSEAD, and Johns Hopkins University. The authors thank Ono Academic College and Duke University Behavioral Labs for their assistance in data collection. This paper has benefited from comments of the JCP Special Issue Editors, Associate Editor, three anonymous reviewers, as well as seminar participants at INSEAD and the Association for Consumer Research and Society for Consumer Psychology Conferences. The authorship order is alphabetical by last name.

FundersFunder number
Ono Academic College
Duke University
Johns Hopkins University
Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires


    • Branding
    • Contagion
    • Contamination
    • Counterfeit
    • Counterfeiting
    • Ethics
    • Infection
    • Moral Disgust
    • Morality
    • Public Policy


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