The reason we react so negatively to hypocrites may not be exactly what you think. New research, forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue (Tweet it!). In other words, their misleading talk implies that they behave in certain admirable ways when they actually do not.
The authors offer the example of a co-worker who presents himself as an environmental activist. “He hounds people to turn off their office lights when they step out for lunch and gets on their case if they throw recyclables in the trash. He protests when people print documents single-sided... Now imagine you discover that your co-worker, when at home, regularly fails to do any of these things. You promptly revoke the moral credit you gave him for his activism…his outspoken moralizing falsely conveys his own virtue, earning him undue reputational benefits —and at the expense of the individuals whom he publicly shames. He would enhance his credibility by simply admitting that he sometimes falls short of these ideals himself.”
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