Symbolic material objects such as art or artefacts, for example fine pottery or jewellery, share one common element: the combination of generating an expression, and the materialisation of this expression in the object. This explains why people place a much greater value on handmade over machine-made objects, and originals over duplicates. This project showed that this mechanism occurs when a material object’s symbolic property is salient and when the creator (artist or craftsman) is perceived to have agency control over the 1-to-1 materialized expression in the object.
We found that the coactivation of these two factors caused the object to be perceived as having high value because it was seen as the embodied representation of the creator’s unique personal expression.
Our theory explains the causal link between authenticity and a product’s perceived value. It allows managers to design production processes in order to preserve a product’s perceived authenticity.