The Moral Virtue of Authenticity: How Inauthenticity Produces Feelings of Immorality and Impurity

Francesca Gino, Maryam Kouchaki*, Adam D. Galinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


The five experiments reported here demonstrate that authenticity is directly linked to morality. We found that experiencing inauthenticity, compared with authenticity, consistently led participants to feel more immoral and impure. This link from inauthenticity to feeling immoral produced an increased desire among participants to cleanse themselves and to engage in moral compensation by behaving prosocially. We established the role that impurity played in these effects through mediation and moderation. We found that inauthenticity-induced cleansing and compensatory helping were driven by heightened feelings of impurity rather than by the psychological discomfort of dissonance. Similarly, physically cleansing oneself eliminated the relationship between inauthenticity and prosocial compensation. Finally, we obtained additional evidence for discriminant validity: The observed effects on desire for cleansing were not driven by general negative experiences (i.e., failing a test) but were unique to experiences of inauthenticity. Our results establish that authenticity is a moral state—that being true to thine own self is experienced as a form of virtue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-996
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 16 2015


  • authenticity
  • compensatory ethics
  • helping
  • morality
  • open data
  • open materials
  • prosocial behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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