Understanding the Magnitude of Hypocrisy in Moral Contradictions: The Role of Surprise at Violating Strong Attitudes

Jacob D. Teeny*, Jaroth V. Lanzalotta, Richard E. Petty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although two people could both enact similar forms of hypocrisy, one person might be judged as more hypocritical than the other. The present research advances a novel, theoretical explanation for a paradigmatic instance of this: the increased hypocrisy ascribed to contradicting a morally (vs. nonmorally) based attitude. In contrast to prior explanations, the present research shows that people infer targets holding morally (vs. nonmorally) based attitudes are more difficult to change. Consequently, when people are hypocritical on these stances, it elicits greater surprise, which amplifies the perceived hypocrisy. Through both statistical mediation and experimental moderation, we provide evidence for this process and show how our explanation generalizes to understanding heightened hypocrisy in other contexts, too (i.e., violating nonmoral attitudes held with certainty vs. uncertainty). Altogether, we provide an integrative, theoretical lens for predicting when moral and nonmoral acts of hypocrisy will be perceived as particularly hypocritical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • attitude strength
  • difficulty
  • hypocrisy
  • inferences
  • morality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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