What Makes Hypocrisy? Folk Definitions, Attitude/Behavior Combinations, Attitude Strength, and Private/Public Distinctions

Sean M. Laurent, Brian A.M. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Past research has rarely examined what makes behaviors appear more or less hypocritical. This work expands our understanding, identifying and exploring factors contributing to perception of hypocrisy. An initial study surveyed participants’ definitions of the concept. Experiments 2a/2b then demonstrate that attitude–behavior inconsistency is viewed as most hypocritical, followed by attitude-attitude and behavior-behavior inconsistency. Experiments 3 and 4 examined how perception of hypocrisy depends on attitude strength, communication method, and whether attitudes/behaviors are privately or publicly held/enacted. We conclude that hypocrisy is perceived as strongest when attitudes are publicly imposed on others in an attempt to appear morally superior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-121
Number of pages18
Journalbasic and applied social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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