People often buy brand-name products over their generic alternatives for fairly obvious reasons. They may trust high-end brands more or feel that using them conveys to others a sense of their own taste, coolness or affluence.
But the influence of brands and logos on our behavior goes well beyond the moment of product choice — when actually using the product, we continue to feel the brand’s influence. For instance, studies show that people give more creative solutions to a problem after seeing an Apple logo than an IBM logo. Other studies have shown that wearing counterfeit versions of brand-name products makes people feel less authentic, and actually increases their likelihood of both behaving dishonesty and distrusting others.
Recent research from psychologists at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan offers yet another surprising demonstration of the power of branding: Using a generic product, rather than a brand-name one, can actually undermine the user’s sense of self-worth.
In one study, college seniors seated at a desktop Mac were randomly assigned to use either a generic keyboard and mouse or brand-name Apple accessories. They used the computer to fill out an online resume, and after finishing were asked to estimate their future monthly earnings. Those who used generic accessories said that they would earn, on average, 10 percent less than those who used the brand-name accessories.
In another study, men were given a cell phone so that they could call a woman they had just been introduced to and ask her on a date.
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