Moral hypocrisy: appearing moral to oneself without being so

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Sep;77(3):525-37. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.77.3.525.


How can people appear moral to themselves when they fail to act morally? Two self-deception strategies were considered: (a) misperceive one's behavior as moral and (b) avoid comparing one's behavior with moral standards. In Studies 1 and 2 the authors documented the importance of the 2nd strategy but not the 1st. Among participants who flipped a coin to assign themselves and another participant "fairly" to tasks, even a clearly labeled coin that prevented misperception did not produce a fair result (Study 1). Inducing behavior-standard comparison through self-awareness did (Study 2). Study 3 qualified the self-awareness effect: When moral standards were not salient before acting, self-awareness no longer increased alignment of behavior with standards. Instead, it increased alignment of standards with behavior and produced less moral action. Overall, results showed 3 different faces of moral hypocrisy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morals*
  • Random Allocation
  • Self Concept*