VIDEO. Camille’s chronicle: why do we condemn hypocrisy?

CJAMY. Camille Gaubert’s column is broadcast daily in the program “C Jamy”, presented by Jamy Gourmaud from Monday to Friday at 5 pm on France 5.

If hypocrisy is so strongly condemned in our Western cultures, it is because it is a form of deception and betrayal, according to recent research. Surprisingly, this perception seems to be cultural: the more interdependence is encouraged, the less hypocrisy is frowned upon.

Hypocrisy makes crime worse

Tartuffe, protagonist of Molière’s play of the same name, is a crook. He pretends to be a pious and principled man in order to extract money from Orgon, a wealthy naive bent on religion. And when it is pointed out to him that his attitude is not compatible with his alleged religious convictions, Tartuffe replies: “Heaven defends, in truth, certain contentments, but we find accommodations with it.“. This is hypocrisy: when our words paint us in a better light than our actions. What is interesting is that we condemn hypocrisy more severely than the bad actions themselves, points out the neuroscience researcher Sebastian Dieguez For example, stealing money is frowned upon, but stealing AND publicly claiming that stealing is wrong, in the public eye, is far worse.

Words signal our moral values

But why a positive word aggravates a wrongdoing instead of compensating for it? According to a 2017 study, this is because of a concept called “signage”, meaning that we signal our values ​​with our words. Claiming that “stealing is bad” indeed instills more confidence in others than the simple fact of not stealing. But when this signaling is manipulated by a hypocrite to make himself look better than he is, we feel ripped off… And the judgment is much harsher. ““Honest” hypocrites – who avoid the false signal by admitting to having committed the condemned transgression – are not viewed negatively even if their actions contradict their stated values“, also conclude the authors of the publication. For example, when a person claiming his moral righteousness admits to having stolen, the judgment is less severe than if the theft is discovered without him recognizing it.

A judgment of largely cultural hypocrisy

But this reaction is largely cultural. The proof: according to a 2018 study, the rejection of hypocrisy is much less strong in less individualistic cultures that favor the collective, as in Asia and Latin America, than in Western Europe and North America where independence is encouraged. “We postulate that these cultural differences in responses to the inability to practice what one preaches arises from the fact that people are more likely to view preaching as other-oriented and generous (as opposed to selfish and generous). hypocritical) in cultural contexts that encourage interdependence“, conclude the scientists. In other words, in these countries,” not to practice what one preaches “is rather perceived like an appreciable attempt to transmit a good message!

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