Why Do We Hate Hypocrites? Evidence for a Theory of False Signaling

37 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2017

See all articles by Jillian Jordan

Jillian Jordan

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Roseanna Sommers

University of Chicago Law School; Yale University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology, Students

Paul Bloom

Yale University

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: January 11, 2017

Abstract

Why do people judge hypocrites, who condemn immoral behaviors that they in fact engage in, so negatively? We propose that hypocrites are disliked because their condemnation sends a false signal about their personal conduct, deceptively suggesting that they behave morally. We show that verbal condemnation signals moral goodness (Study 1) and does so even more convincingly than directly stating that one behaves morally (Study 2). We then demonstrate that people judge hypocrites negatively — even more negatively than people who directly make false statements about their morality (Study 3). Finally, we show that “honest” hypocrites — who avoid false signaling by admitting to committing the condemned transgression — are not perceived negatively even though their actions contradict their stated values (Study 4). Critically, the same is not true of hypocrites who engage in false signaling but admit to unrelated transgressions (Study 5). Together, our results support a false-signaling theory of hypocrisy.

Keywords: moral psychology, condemnation, vignettes, deception, social signaling

Suggested Citation

Jordan, Jillian and Sommers, Roseanna and Bloom, Paul and Rand, David G., Why Do We Hate Hypocrites? Evidence for a Theory of False Signaling (January 11, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2897313 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2897313

Jillian Jordan (Contact Author)

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Roseanna Sommers

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 East 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Yale University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology, Students

United States

Paul Bloom

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.daverand.org

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
1,041
rank
18,815
Abstract Views
5,116
PlumX