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Psychol Sci. 2010 May;21(5):737-44. doi: 10.1177/0956797610368810. Epub 2010 Apr 16.

Power increases hypocrisy: moralizing in reasoning, immorality in behavior.

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  • 1Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research (TIBER), Department of Social Psychology, Tilburg University, Warandelaan 2, 5037 AB Tilburg, The Netherlands. j.lammers@uvt.nl

Abstract

In five studies, we explored whether power increases moral hypocrisy (i.e., imposing strict moral standards on other people but practicing less strict moral behavior oneself). In Experiment 1, compared with the powerless, the powerful condemned other people's cheating more, but also cheated more themselves. In Experiments 2 through 4, the powerful were more strict in judging other people's moral transgressions than in judging their own transgressions. A final study found that the effect of power on moral hypocrisy depends on the legitimacy of the power: When power was illegitimate, the moral-hypocrisy effect was reversed, with the illegitimately powerful becoming stricter in judging their own behavior than in judging other people's behavior. This pattern, which might be dubbed hypercrisy, was also found among low-power participants in Experiments 3 and 4. We discuss how patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy among the powerful and powerless can help perpetuate social inequality.

PMID:
20483854
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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