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When and Why Hypocrisy Is Reputationally Costly
Hypocrisy is a pervasive issue among individuals, leaders, and organizations and assumed to be reputationally costly. Recent findings challenge this notion, suggesting that hypocrisy does not always lead to social costs. We address this debate by considering how norm importance impacts hypocrisy judgments. In two studies, we compare evaluations of communicators who engage in hypocrisy in domains of deception and piracy, which differ in perceived norm importance (honesty as high in importance, paying for content as lower in importance). We find that hypocrisy is reputationally costly for less important norms. Although violating a more important norm does reflect poorly on character, condemning violations of a more important norm is also extremely beneficial, which protects against additional hypocrisy costs. We argue that separately examining the benefits of promoting norms, costs of transgressing, and potential added costs of word-deed misalignment is necessary to predict the reputational consequences of hypocrisy.