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Moral Hypocrisy

  • By: Elizabeth C. Collins & C. Daniel Batson
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

Webster's Desk Dictionary of the English Language (1990) defines moral as “1. of or concerned with principles of right or wrong conduct. 2. being in accordance with such principles” (p. 586); it defines hypocrisy as “a pretense of having desirable or publicly approved attitudes, beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually possess” (p. 444). Moral hypocrisy is the motivation to appear moral, while, if possible, avoiding the cost of being moral. This is in opposition to moral integrity, which is the motivation to act in accord with moral principles—to actually be moral.

Phenomenon

Moral people often fail to act morally. One of the most important lessons to be learned from the atrocities of the past century—mass killings, terrorist bombings, and corporate cover-ups—is that horrendous deeds are ...

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