Buying Affiliation

We care about the origins of art. Comparing two physically identical artworks, we pay more for an original than a duplicate, and not because we think originals have better quality, rarity, resources, or effort. Instead it seems we pay for a more direct physical connection to the artist:

Duplicate artworks are judged to be less valuable than duplicate artifacts. We observed this effect even when both the original artwork and the original artifact were one of a kind and were equivalent in value. Experiment 2 helped to further rule out the potentially confounding inferences based on the relative quality of a duplicate artwork versus a duplicate artifact, as well as on the belief that duplicate artifacts are simply more common than duplicate artworks. Finally, the results of Experiment 3 address the alternative explanation that original artworks are valued because they are perceived as requiring more effort and resources to produce. …

The [importance of] degree of physical contact with the original artist (contagion). … was supported in Experiment 1 and more directly in Experiment 5, where artworks made with a hands-on process were judged to be more valuable than those made with a hands-off process. In addition, contagion had a larger impact for artworks than for artifacts. Support for uniqueness of performance as an important dimension came primarily from Experiment 4, where the act of intentionally duplicating a painting (as opposed to accidentally making a similar looking painting) had a twofold impact on judgments of value in driving down the value of a duplicate, while driving up the value of the original. …

[The idea] that people value original artworks solely because they observe that other people value originals more than duplicates—cannot be entirely correct. … Previous research has documented how … mere proximity between two items in a shopping cart or on a table may be sufficient to trigger inferences about contamination, which can raise or lower value. … Similarly, everyday artifacts can gain value through contact with certain special individuals, such as celebrities. Finally, assessments of a performance as effortful or unique may apply to wide array of objects and events, such as evaluations of sports or scholastic achievement. (more)

This lends some support to the suggestion that customers of academia, such as students, funders, and readers, pay in part for a more direct affiliation with certified-as-impressive academics.

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