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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"The Counterfeit Self" and Living the Gospel

When the study, entitled "The Counterfeit Self : The Deceptive Costs of Faking It" first hit the news media, I read some commentary about it. I have been thinking about the implications for Church members for some time now.

In the abstract it states:
Although people buy counterfeit products to signal positive traits, we show that wearing counterfeit products makes individuals feel less authentic and increases their likelihood of both behaving dishonestly and judging others as unethical.
The implications are on our own behavior. We are likely to be more dishonest if we are wearing fake things.

It makes me wonder about other things we do to our appearance that are fake like dying our hair, wearing a toupee, having a face lift, wearing age-inappropriate clothing, or even wearing make-up. Hair dye jobs rarely fool anybody. But, I think people do these things because they look better to themselves, not necessarily because they think they look better to other people. But, could this all be having an effect on our own behavior?

As I age, there are simply changes happening I can do nothing about. My teeth are yellowing and becoming more irregular. I'm okay with these things, but I would not want to have someone discount a verbal point I'm making because they are distracted by my appearance or some aspect of my appearance. I have found my own attention wandering if someone speaking is doing something or wearing something distracting. For this reason, my teeth concern me. I live in a world of perfect teeth and mine are not perfect. I am willing to settle for "not out of the ordinary" rather than "perfection."

I am not going to dye my hair because I think it looks fake. I do not like doing anything fake. Although, I have sympathy for people that go grey or white inordinately young. That would be distracting to people to observe a young face and too old of hair. Having no hair at all would also be distracting. But bald is less distracting for older men than comb-overs.

I have to wonder if the General Authorities had normal looking, irregularly yellowed teeth that people might focus on that trait rather than the gospel wisdom they impart. I think that type of visibility would affect my choices as well. Currently, I do not have a visible job or calling.

In general, I think we ought to avoid doing anything that is remotely fake because it is dishonest. I hope we see some additional studies in the future that examine whether people that do not artificially alter their appearance exhibit more honest behavior. In the meantime, we don't have to wait. We can decide this for ourselves.



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