People tend to hate hypocrites because they cover up their bad behaviour, which sends a false signal, misleading others to think that they are virtuous whereas they actually are not, claims a study.
The findings showed that people dislike hypocrites more than those who openly admit to engaging in a behaviour that they disapprove of. But what makes hypocrites especially bad is that they condemns the moral failings of other people but behaves badly himself or herself.
"People dislike hypocrites because they unfairly use condemnation to gain reputational benefits and appear virtuous at the expense of those who they are condemning -- when these reputational benefits are in fact undeserved," said lead author Jillian Jordan, psychological scientist at Yale University, Connecticut, US.
However, the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, proposes a different hypothesis, based on the idea of false signalling. Hypocrites are disliked because they use their condemnation to mislead other people about their moral behaviour.
Hypocrites also inspire moral outrage because they dishonestly signal their moral goodness that is, their condemnation of immoral behaviour signals that they are morally upright, but they fail to act in accordance with these signals.
This theory of false signalling helps explain why hypocrites are often regarded as liars, but, are actually more misleading than liars. Liars, by contrast, avoid moral condemnation and are thus less likely to malign or shame other people.
"Condemnation can act as a stronger signal of one's own moral goodness than a direct statement of moral behaviour," the researchers noted.