Being good to look good

Mengchen Dong, Tom R. Kupfer, Shuai Yuan, & Jan-Willem van Prooijen published this study a few months ago. Being good to look good: Self-reported moral character predicts moral double standards among reputation-seeking individuals.

People who self report as virtuous are more likely to judge others harshly, while applying a lower standard to themselves. In other words, people who self report strong moral character are more likely to be hypocrites.

These studies seem plausible to me. The number of participants is low for most of them, but the results appear relatively robust. It may be because this paper’s results confirms my priors and match with my own experience well.

Some religious people can be harsh on others, and a subset of these judgmental devout lead depraved lives.

The few folks I know who self-identify as environmentalist don’t seem to be particularly mindful of the resource they use or of the environment in general.

Since the beginning of the decade, social justice and cultural issues have saturated the attention market with new virtues to signal. Protests and political events are golden opportunities for personal propaganda, it’s a great way to affirm one’s superior moral character.

Places like Twitter certainly have a high rate of hypocrites because it is such a great stage for performative do-goodery.

Politicians are the best example of this behavior, they are the apex of the reputation-seeking individual. We regularly see them engage in behavior that they would themselves harshly criticize. Unfortunately hypocrisy seems to be an effective political strategy.

According to this study we shouldn’t believe our self-reported moral character and maybe see the self-propagandists as trying to conceal a somber secret about themselves.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.