Vicarious hypocrisy: Bolstering attitudes and taking action after exposure to a hypocritical ingroup member

Elizabeth S. Focella, Jeff Stone, Nicholas C. Fernandez, Joel Cooper, Michael A. Hogg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Four studies tested the prediction that when highly identified group members observe another ingroup member behave hypocritically, they experience vicarious hypocrisy, which they reduce by bolstering their support for the ingroup hypocrite's message. Participants in Experiment 1 (N = 161) who witnessed a similar ingroup member act hypocritically about using sunscreen reported more positive attitudes toward using sunscreen than participants exposed to an outgroup hypocrite or to a dissimilar ingroup hypocrite. The effect of vicarious hypocrisy on attitude bolstering was attenuated in Experiment 2 (N = 68) when ingroup identity was affirmed. In Experiment 3 (N = 64), more highly identified participants acquired sunscreen when a fellow ingroup member's hypocrisy was attributed to high compared to low choice. Experiment 4 (N = 68) showed that a misattribution cue attenuated the effect of vicarious hypocrisy on sunscreen acquisition. The discussion focuses on the vicarious dissonance processes that motivate some observers to defend, rather than reject, a hypocritical ingroup member.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Attitudes
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Hypocrisy
  • Self-affirmation
  • Vicarious


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