Hypocrisy: It’s Good for You!

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Jesus, John8:7

 “Hypocrisy has its place in the ages of strong belief: in which even when one is compelled to exhibit a different belief one does not abandon the belief one already has”

Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

 “My life is a paradox
Seems that I care a lot
Meaning that I stare a lot
(But I don’t give a f***)
Armchair compassionate
Accessory fashion it
Get me a character fit to assassinate”

Track 1, Regurgitator


Everybody hates a hypocrite, right? Someone of loudly decries the bad behaviour of others while happily committing their own sins of a similar nature. Why act in a manner so universally despised?

As we look around the world, there is no shortage of human-caused problems. Environmental degradation, global warming, poverty, war. And as we listen around the “conversation”, there is equally no shortage of those who stridently condemn the people or parties at fault for those issues.

Sport stars, celebrities, boutique and mundane corporations, local and global governments; everywhere you look there are eminent and influential voices calling out wrong doers.

And its not just the elites. The internet has democratised this exclusive behaviour. You too can engage in a 280-character piece of activism, at precisely no cost to yourself!

Why then, when it’s never been easier and more accepted to take a hard public stance on “the issues” do we still have so much going wrong?

I thought about this question as I read a new study published in the Journal Social Psychological and Personality Science which looked at moral outrage and meat consumption.

Hank Rothgerber, and his merry crew of psychological experts, invited 310 red-blooded American carnivores to read a distressing article about factory farming, in which the farming was either done by Americans or Chinese. After reading the article, the participants were asked to rate how guilty they personally felt about factory farming and asked to compare how well their moral character stacked up against other people.

The kicker of the study is that, between the article and the self-ratings, half the group was given the opportunity to express moral outrage about factory farming and the other half was not.

Following the initial reading, half of the flesh-munchers (I eat meat, so I’m allowed to call them that), were prompted to agree or disagree with statements such as “knowing that animals are helpless against factory farming companies makes me angry on their behalf”. The other half of the participants went straight to the guilt and moral character stage.

When participants had read about dodgy Chinese farmers, and had an opportunity to express moral outrage, they rated themselves as of a higher moral calibre and expressed less guilt about their own behaviour.

So, hypocrisy makes us feel great! We avoid changing our own bad behaviours, happily going about our lives with a clear conscience!

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