Why do people hate hypocrites

Psychology of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy, double standards, hypocrisy: always at the expense of others

What exactly is hypocrisy? In any case, something that has been stirring for a long time. In a two and a half thousand year old Plato dialogue, Plato's brother Glaucon speaks about people who only do good when others see it - but secretly act very differently. That is why they are called "Glaukonier". Hypocrisy is also known as a double standard. The Church speaks of hypocrisy. In the Sermon on the Mount as well as in the Koran, the pretense of faith appears as a theme.

The Dutch scientist Joris Lammers is professor for social psychology at the University of Bremen; In his home country and at the University of Cologne, he has done intensive research into double standards. Hypocrisy, he says, is always used to gain advantages over others. If the hypocrite succeeds, it is always at the expense of others.

Contradiction: preach water but drink wine

The psychologists Sean Laurent and Brian Clark have examined what Americans perceive as hypocrisy and which forms of it are considered particularly bad. They questioned 300 students and found no less than 546 different definitions of "hypocrisy", of hypocrisy. The English word "hypocrisy" comes from ancient Greek, the old German verb "heucheln" once referred to crouching like a dog, to being insincere.

Most of the respondents' definitions refer to Heinrich Heine's "preach water but drink wine yourself", the discrepancy between a moral sermon and actual behavior: for example, when the congressman publicly railed against abortion but urged his own girlfriend to have an abortion . Essentially, according to researchers Laurent and Clark, hypocrisy is always about "inconsistency".

What Makes People Hypocrites? For the Bielefeld social psychologist Alexa Weiß, this has, among other things, to do with the ability or the inability to trust other people. In a scientific online survey that she published together with two colleagues in 2018, she first wanted to know from the around 900 participants how much basic trust they have in themselves. In the second step, she then confronted the test subjects with tricky moral questions. For example, whether you should return too much change that you have accidentally received.

Mistrust and victim sensitivity encourage hypocritical decisions

The results of the survey show: Those who mistrust their colleague think it is better to keep the change they have received too much after that colleague has just bought lunch for everyone and spent the money on it. But woe if someone else keeps this euro to themselves!

In addition to the role of trust, Alexa Weiß also examined the influence of victim sensitivity. Psychology means how quickly and easily people feel like victims. Alexa Weiß was able to show: Those who treat others with mistrust or who tend to feel like victims are also more prone to hypocrisy.

Hypocrites gain advantage but lead busy lives

The hypocrite gains advantages when successful, but also pays a price. Those who are found lose their credibility, maybe even their social position. Like Congressman Timothy Murphy when his contradicting speeches and actions about abortion became public. But even hypocrites who are not exposed do not gain their advantages for nothing. Life as a hypocrite is exhausting in the long run, because appearances have to be maintained.

But how do you protect yourself from the hypocrites? Joris Lammers thinks a well-functioning press is really important in terms of politics. Critical media monitor what politicians say and whether they act contrary to it. But Alexa Weiß knows: As long as you are dealing with people, it is hardly possible to protect yourself from hypocrites. And the psychology of hypocrisy is just beginning.

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