Hypocrisy

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For other uses, see Hypocrisy (disambiguation).

Hypocrisy is the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, esp. with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another.[1] In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.[2]

It occurs when modules and mechanisms in the human brain - which evolved independently, in response to selection pressures, that varied over vast ranges of time and of place - contradict each other. These contradictions are normal, constant, and persistent. It is a cause, as well as a result, of cognitive biases and distortions which predispose humans to effortlessly perceive and condemn faults in others, while failing to perceive and condemn faults of their own.

Hypocrisy has been a subject of folk wisdom and wisdom literature from the beginnings of human history. Increasingly, since the 1980s, it has also become central to studies in behavioral economics, cognitive science, cultural psychology, decision making, discrimination, ethics, evolutionary psychology, moral psychology, political sociology, positive psychology, social psychology, and social psychology (sociology).

Etymology[edit]

The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑυπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means "jealous", "play-acting", "acting out", "coward" or "dissembling".[3] The word hypocrite is from the Greek word ὑυποκρίτης (hypokritēs), the agentive noun associated with υποκρίνομαι (hypokrinomai κρίση, "judgment" »κριτική (kritiki), "critics") presumably because the performance of a dramatic text by an actor was to involve a degree of interpretation, or assessment.

Alternatively, the word is an amalgam of the Greek prefix hypo-, meaning "under", and the verb krinein, meaning "to sift or decide". Thus the original meaning implied a deficiency in the ability to sift or decide. This deficiency, as it pertains to one's own beliefs and feelings, informs the word's contemporary meaning.[4]

Whereas hypokrisis applied to any sort of public performance (including the art of rhetoric), hypokrites was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered an appropriate role for a public figure. In Athens in the 4th century BC, for example, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics, as a hypocrites whose skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an untrustworthy politician. This negative view of the hypokrites, perhaps combined with the Roman disdain for actors, later shaded into the originally neutral hypokrisis. It is this later sense of hypokrisis as "play-acting", i.e., the assumption of a counterfeit persona, that gives the modern word hypocrisy its negative connotation.

Evolutionary bases[edit]

An optical illusion. Square A is exactly the same shade of grey as Square B, if ignoring certain rules of 3D projections. (See Checker shadow illusion.)

The human brain evolved adaptations and modules in response to widely varied selection pressures. These adaptations occurred over millions of years (see Evolution of the brain), and were thus not coordinated. And they do not necessarily work in a coordinated manner in humans today. This explains perceptual – as well as cognitive – illusions.

The mental processes that enable one module to insist that Square A in this image is darker than Square B (perceptual systems notwithstanding), also enable one's moral modules to condemn infidelity while mating modules induce one to commit it.[5]

Power magnifies these effects. People in power are more likely to commit infidelity[6] and to condemn infidelity.[7]

Psychology[edit]

Hypocrisy has long been of interest to psychologists. Pioneer C. G. Jung attributed it to those who are not aware of the dark or shadow-side of their nature.[8] Recent studies have focused on mental characteristics and mechanisms to better understand hypocrisy.

Preference for the effortless[edit]

Niccolò Machiavelli noted that "the mass of mankind accept what seems as what is; nay, are often touched more nearly by appearances than by realities".[9] Natural selection works by the principle of survival of the fittest, and several researchers have shown that humans evolved to play the game of life in a Machiavellian way.[10] The best way to cultivate a reputation for fairness is to really be fair. But since it is much harder to be fair than to seem fair, and since laziness is built deep into human nature,[11] humans more often choose appearance over reality.[12]

Self-deception[edit]

"So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."[13] Benjamin Franklin's observation has been confirmed by recent studies in self-deception.[14] In everyday reasoning, humans do little to get real evidence when taking positions or making decisions, and do even less to get evidence for opposing positions. Instead, they tend to fabricate "pseudo-evidence"[15] – often after the decision had already been made (“post hoc fabrication”).[16]

Humans take a position, look for evidence that supports it, then, if they find some evidence – enough so that the position "makes sense" – they stop thinking altogether (the “makes-sense stopping rule”).[17] And, when pressed to produce real evidence, they tend to seek and interpret “evidence” that confirms what they already believe (the "confirmation bias").[18]

Moreover, humans tend to think highly of themselves, highlighting strengths and achievements, and overlooking weakness and failures (the “self-serving bias”). This is particularly true of Americans and Europeans: when asked to rate themselves on virtues, skills, or other desirable traits (including ethics, intelligence, driving ability, and sexual skills), a large majority say they are above average.[19] Power and privilege magnify the distortion: 94% of college professors think that they do above average work.[20] This effect is weaker in Asian countries and in other cultures which value the group more highly than the self.[21]

Self-ignorance[edit]

Robert Wright wrote that "Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse."[22] Humans are very good at challenging the beliefs of other people, but when it comes to their own beliefs, they tend to protect them, not challenge them.[23] A consistent finding of psychological research is that humans are fairly accurate in their perceptions of others, but generally inaccurate in their perceptions of themselves.[24] Humans tend to judge others by their behavior, but think they have special information about themselves – that they know what they are "really like" inside – and thus effortlessly find ways to explain away selfish acts, and maintain the illusion that they are better than others.[25]

The myth of pure evil[edit]

This distortion – hypocrisy in its most destructive form – is characterized by the belief that (1) evil is the intentional and gratuitous infliction of harm for its own sake, (2) perpetrated by villains who are malevolent to the core, (3) inflicted on victims who are innocent and good.[26] Psychologists call this a myth because believing in this fiction often blinds one to the reality that evil is in fact perpetrated mainly by ordinary people, who respond to perceived harms, including “provocations” by their victims, in ways they feel are reasonable and just.[27] Evil is not rare – it is commonplace, banal.[28] And all humans are capable of evil acts. Psychologists like Jonathan Haidt and Steven Pinker maintain that most if not all the major atrocities in human history were carried out by ordinary people who believed that they were good, that they were innocent victims – that they had God on their side – and that their enemies were pure evil.[29]

Benefits[edit]

Although there are many negatives to hypocrisy, various studies have shown that there can be benefits from inducing hypocrisy. A 2004 report stated that smoking amongst college students decreases when hypocrisy was induced.[30] Furthermore, another study has stated that condom use increases amongst college students when hypocrisy is induced.[31]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wiktionary:Hypocrisy
  2. ^ Lammers, J., Stapel, D. A., & Galinsky, A. D. (January 01, 2010). Power increases hypocrisy: moralizing in reasoning, immorality in behavior. Psychological Science, 21, 5, 737.
  3. ^ Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, ed Morwood and Taylor, OUP 2002
  4. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary: "hypocrisy"". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  5. ^ Kurzban, R. (2010). Why everyone (else) is a hypocrite: Evolution and the modular mind. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
  6. ^ Lammers, J., Stoker, J. I., Jordan, J., Pollmann, M., & Stapel, D. A. (January 01, 2011). Power increases infidelity among men and women. Psychological Science, 22, 9, 1191-7.
  7. ^ Lammers, J., Stapel, D. A., & Galinsky, A. D. (January 01, 2010). Power increases hypocrisy: moralizing in reasoning, immorality in behavior. Psychological Science, 21, 5, 737-44.
  8. ^ Every individual needs revolution, inner division, overthrow of the existing order, and renewal, but not by forcing them upon his neighbors under the hypocritical cloak of Christian love or the sense of social responsibility or any of the other beautiful euphemisms for unconscious urges to personal power (Jung, 1966:5). It is under all circumstances an advantage to be in full possession of one's personality, otherwise the repressed elements will only crop up as a hindrance elsewhere, not just at some unimportant point, but at the very spot where we are most sensitive. If people can be educated to see the shadow-side of their nature clearly, it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and love their fellow men better. A little less hypocrisy and a little more self-knowledge can only have good results in respect for our neighbor; for we are all too prone to transfer to our fellows the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures (Jung, 1966:par. 28). In New Paths in Psychology (1916) Jung pointedly referred to the "hypocritical pretenses of man". Dream-analysis above all else mercilessly uncovers the lying morality and hypocritical pretences of man, showing him, for once, the other side of his character in the most vivid light (Jung, 1966:par. 437). Jung omitted this characterization from his later essay On the Psychology of the Unconscious (1943), which developed out of the former.
  9. ^ Machiavelli, N. (2004), Book 1 Ch 25. Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius. Project Gutenberg.
  10. ^ Byrne, R. W., & Whiten, A. (1988). Machiavellian intelligence: Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  11. ^ Kahneman, D. (2011), p. 35. Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  12. ^ Haidt, J. (2006), p. 61. The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic Books. (pdf)
  13. ^ Franklin, B. (1771), p. 18. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Ushistory.org
  14. ^ von, H. W., & Trivers, R. (January 01, 2011). The evolution and psychology of self-deception. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 1, 1-16. (pdf)
  15. ^ Kuhn, D. (1991). The skills of argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  16. ^ Haidt, J., Bjorklund, F., & Murphy, S. (n.d.). Moral dumbfounding: When intuition finds no reason. (Unpublished manuscript, University of Virginia).
  17. ^ Perkins, D. N., Farady, M., & Bushey, B. In Voss, J. F., Perkins, D. N., & Segal, J. W. (1991). Informal reasoning and education. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.
  18. ^ Wason, P. C. (1960-01-01). On the Failure to Eliminate Hypotheses in a Conceptual Task. Quarterly journal of experimental psychology, 12, 129.
  19. ^ Alicke, Mark D.; Klotz, M. L.; Breitenbecher, David L.; Yurak, Tricia J.; Vredenburg, Debbie S. Personal contact, individuation, and the better-than-average effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 68(5), May 1995, 804-825.
  20. ^ Cross, K. P. (January 01, 1977). Not Can, But Will College Teaching Be Improved?. New Directions for Higher Education, 17, 1-15.
  21. ^ Heine, S. J. (1999-08-01). Culture, self-discrepancies, and self-satisfaction. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 25(8), 915.
  22. ^ Wright, R. (1995). The moral animal: Evolutionary psychology and everyday life. New York: Vintage Books.
  23. ^ Shaw, V. (May 01, 1996). The Cognitive Processes in Informal Reasoning. Thinking & Reasoning, 2, 1, 51-80.
  24. ^ Haidt, J. (2006), p. 66. The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic Books (pdf)
  25. ^ Epley, N. (2000-12-01). Feeling "Holier Than Thou". Journal of personality and social psychology, 79(6), 861-875.
  26. ^ Baumeister, R. F. (2001). Evil: Inside human violence and cruelty. New York: Owl Books.
  27. ^ Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking.
  28. ^ Arendt, H. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil. New York: Viking Press.
  29. ^ Haidt, J. (2006), p. 76. The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdoms. New York: Basic Books (pdf)
  30. ^ Simmons, V. N., Webb, M. S., & Brandon, T. H. (2004). College-student smoking: An initial test of an experiential dissonance-enhancing intervention. Addictive behaviors, 29(6), 1129-1136.
  31. ^ Stone, J., Aronson, E., Crain, A. L., Winslow, M. P., & Fried, C. B. (1994). Inducing hypocrisy as a means of encouraging young adults to use condoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(1), 116-128.

References[edit]

  • Alicke, Mark D.; Klotz, M. L.; Breitenbecher, David L.; Yurak, Tricia J.; Vredenburg, Debbie S. Personal contact, individuation, and the better-than-average effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Alicke, M., Gordon, E., & Rose, D. (2012;2013;). Hypocrisy: What counts? Philosophical Psychology, 26(5), 1-29. doi:10.1080/09515089.2012.677397
  • Arendt, H. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil. New York: Viking Press.
  • Baumeister, R. F. (2001). Evil: Inside human violence and cruelty. New York: Owl Books.
  • Byrne, R. W., & Whiten, A. (1988). Machiavellian intelligence: Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Caviola, L., & Faulmüller, N. (2014). Moral hypocrisy in economic games-how prosocial behavior is shaped by social expectations. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 897. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00897
  • Cross, K. P. (January 1, 1977). Not Can, But Will College Teaching Be Improved?. New Directions for Higher Education.
  • la Cour, A., & Kromann, J. (2011). Euphemisms and hypocrisy in corporate philanthropy. Business Ethics: A European Review, 20(3), 267-279. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8608.2011.01627.x
  • Epley, N. (2000-12-01). Feeling "Holier Than Thou". Journal of personality and social psychology.
  • Fernández, J. (2013;2011;). Self-deception and self-knowledge. Philosophical Studies, 162(2), 379-400. doi:10.1007/s11098-011-9771-9
  • Greene, M., & Low, K. (2014). public integrity, private hypocrisy, and the moral licensing effect. Social Behavior and Personality, 42(3), 391.
  • Haidt, J. (2006), p. 61. The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic Books.
  • Haidt, J., Bjorklund, F., & Murphy, S. (n.d.). Moral dumbfounding: When intuition finds no reason. (Unpublished manuscript, University of Virginia).
  • Heine, S. J. (1999-08-01). Culture, self-discrepancies, and self-satisfaction. Personality & social psychology bulletin.
  • Jung, C.G. (1966). Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Collected Works, Volume 7, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01782-4.
  • Kahneman, D. (2011), p. 35. Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Kuhn, D. (1991). The skills of argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kurzban, R. (2010). Why everyone (else) is a hypocrite: Evolution and the modular mind. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
  • Lammers, J., Stapel, D. A., & Galinsky, A. D. (January 1, 2010). Power increases hypocrisy: moralizing in reasoning, immorality in behavior. Psychological Science.
  • Larsson, O. S., Avdelningen för forskning om det civila samhället, Ersta Sköndal högskola, & Institutionen för socialvetenskap. (2013). Convergence in ideas, divergence in actions: Organizational hypocrisy in nonprofit organizations. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 35(2), 271-289. doi:10.2753/ATP1084-1806350205
  • Laurent, S. M., Clark, B. A. M., Walker, S., & Wiseman, K. D. (2014). Punishing hypocrisy: The roles of hypocrisy and moral emotions in deciding culpability and punishment of criminal and civil moral transgressors. Cognition & Emotion, 28(1), 59-83. doi:10.1080/02699931.2013.801339
  • Lynch, K. Self-deception vs. self-realization. (2014). The Dialogue, 9(1)
  • Perkins, D. N., Farady, M., & Bushey, B. In Voss, J. F., Perkins, D. N., & Segal, J. W. (1991). Informal reasoning and education. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.
  • Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking.
  • Porcher, J. E. (2014;2015;). is self-deception pretense? Manuscrito, 37(2), 291-332. doi:10.1590/S0100-60452015005000002
  • Renzo, M. (2014). Fairness, self-deception and political obligation. Philosophical Studies, 169(3), 467-488. doi:10.1007/s11098-013-0203-x
  • Ross, L., & Ward, A. (1996). Naive realism in everyday life: Implications for social conflict and misunderstanding. In T. Brown, E. S. Reed & E. Turiel (Eds.), Values and knowledge. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Shaw, V. (May 1, 1996). The Cognitive Processes in Informal Reasoning. Thinking & Reasoning
  • Simmons, V. N., Webb, M. S., & Brandon, T. H. (2004). College-student smoking: An initial test of an experiential dissonance-enhancing intervention. Addictive behaviors.
  • Sommervoll, D. E. (2013). Sweet self-deception. Journal of Economics, 109(1), 73-88. doi:10.1007/s00712-012-0308-2
  • Stone, J., Aronson, E., Crain, A. L., Winslow, M. P., & Fried, C. B. (1994). Inducing hypocrisy as a means of encouraging young adults to use condoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
  • Stone, R. (2014). Unconscionability, exploitation, and hypocrisy. Journal of Political Philosophy, 22(1), 27-47. doi:10.1111/jopp.12009
  • von, H. W., & Trivers, R. (January 1, 2011). The evolution and psychology of self-deception. The Behavioral and Brain SciencesShaw, V. (May 1, 1996). The Cognitive Processes in Informal Reasoning. Thinking & Reasoning.
  • Vaara, E. (2003). Post‐acquisition integration as sensemaking: Glimpses of ambiguity, confusion, hypocrisy, and politicization. Journal of Management Studies, 40(4), 859-894. doi:10.1111/1467-6486.00363
  • Valdesolo, P., & DeSteno, D. (2007). Moral hypocrisy: Social groups and the flexibility of virtue. Psychological Science, 18(8), 689-690. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01961.x
  • von, H. W., & Trivers, R. (January 1, 2011). The evolution and psychology of self-deception. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • Wagner, T., Lutz, R. J., & Weitz, B. A. (2009). Corporate hypocrisy: Overcoming the threat of inconsistent corporate social responsibility perceptions. Journal of Marketing, 73(6), 77-91.
  • Wason, P. C. (1960-01-01). On the Failure to Eliminate Hypotheses in a Conceptual Task. Quarterly journal of experimental psychology.
  • Wright, R. (1995). The moral animal: Evolutionary psychology and everyday life. New York: Vintage Books.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of hypocrisy at Wiktionary
  • Quotations related to Hypocrisy at Wikiquote