If You’re Going to Commit a Crime, Don’t Do Something Hypocritical

From a new paper by the University of Wyoming’s Sean Laurent:

Three experiments explored how hypocrisy affects attributions of criminal guilt and the desire to punish hypocritical criminals. Study 1 established that via perceived hypocrisy, a hypocritical criminal was seen as more culpable and was punished more than a non-hypocritical criminal who committed an identical crime. Study 2 expanded on this, showing that negative moral emotions (anger and disgust) mediated the relationships between perceived hypocrisy, criminal guilt, and punishment. Study 3 replicated the emotion finding from Study 2 using new scenarios where group agents were clearly aware of the hypocrisy of their actions, yet acted anyway. Again, perceived hypocrisy worked through moral emotions to affect criminal guilt and punishment. The current studies provide empirical support for theories relating hypocrisy and moral transgressions to moral emotions, also informing the literature on the role of moral emotions in moral reasoning and legal decision making.

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