In a very different voice: unmasking moral hypocrisy

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Jun;72(6):1335-48. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.72.6.1335.


Across 3 small studies, 80 female undergraduates were confronted with the dilemma of deciding whom-themselves or another research participant-to assign to a positive consequences task, leaving the other to do a dull, boring task. In Study 1, where morality was not mentioned, 16 of 20 assigned themselves to the positive consequences task, even though in retrospect only 1 said this was moral. In Studies 2 and 3, a moral strategy was suggested: either flipping a coin or accepting task assignment by the experimenter. In Study 2, 10 of 20 participants flipped a coin, but of these, 9 assigned themselves the positive consequences task. In Study 3, participants were significantly more likely to accept the experimenter's assignment when it gave them the positive consequences task. Overall, results suggested motivation to appear moral yet still benefit oneself. Such motivation is called moral hypocrisy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Morals*
  • Motivation*
  • Personality
  • Social Justice
  • Social Responsibility
  • Students / psychology