How To Spot A Hypocrite

Hey Psych2Go-ers! 

Being around people with severe hypocritical tendencies is uncomfortable. I mean, the definition does lend itself into this feeling. 

“a person who claims to have moral standards to which that person’s own behavior fails to conform.” 

Also, hypocrites once revealed make you feel like you’ve been played. That popular priest or politician you supported is suddenly caught in a rigged voting saga or extra-marital scandal.  It can anger you finding out about their false moral image and leave you somewhat disillusioned. And sometimes, we can act hypocritical ourselves and not realize it. 

The fact of the matter is, we cannot hide from hypocrites but we can spot them. By being aware of their actions and the effects of it, we can distance ourselves from them, especially if they are not interested in seeing the effects of their actions or owning up to it. We can also become more aware of our own actions that are hypocritical and give ourselves some grace for it and learn from it. 

In this video, you could possibly see some behavior that you exhibit yourself that might be hypocritical. It’s an opportunity for some self-introspection and some knowledge. And by learning how to spot a hypocrite, you might become less likely to be duped by one.  

  1. They Act One Way When Others are Looking and Another When They Aren’t 

Do you notice how someone can act virtuous and logical but behind closed doors that you might share with them, they become and usually are the very opposite thing that they portray? Do they absolutely publicly detest something that you know they indulge in, in private? Hypocrites have two faces. The public one and the truer, private one. While we all adapt and act in certain ways with certain people depending on our relationship dynamics and are never always the same person, a hypocrites behavior is more infuriating. 

The behavior is infuriating because it’s not them shape-shifting socially that’s the problem; it’s them not consistently being who they say they are. They would never kick a puppy but you know how poorly they treat their own pets. In a 2014 study by Caviola, Faulmüller and Lönnqvist, it was concluded that “hypocritical people not only adopt self-interest behavior but also desire to maintain a virtuous moral image.” They’d rather look good than actually be good. 

  1. The Rules Apply To Everyone But Them (And A Select Few) 

“Parking in a handicap spot when you’re not handicapped? How selfish and crude! But if I need it, or my boss or a certain family member or friend needs to be closer to the supermarket, then that’s just efficiency and totally not the same!” A hypocrite knows that rules exist but they strongly believe that they exist for others and not for them or a chosen few in their select power circle. 

A study by Valdesolo and DeSteno in 2008 revealed that “… people often have higher tolerance for violations of moral principles performed by themselves or in-group members because their opinions regarding moral principles are different for themselves or in-group members for immoral behaviors adopted toward others.” They will definitely bend, break or completely ignore a law,principle or rule because” it’s different for me.”

  1. It’s Always Someone Else’s Fault 

Mistakes? Being at fault? Everybody is and has been in that position. No one is perfect or remotely close. We’re perpetual works of progress masterpieces and we learn to see and accept that about ourselves (hopefully.) Taking responsibility for our part in things gives us a sense of power and pride in who we are. 

Hypocrites, however, choose to denounce those superpowers that are available to them. Their sense of self is so fragile, like an infant. They ARE the victim, perpetually because they are never wrong but someone else always is. In 2015, the University of Southern California Professor Jesse Graham and colleagues discovered in a study that “Narcissists, either by nature or as the result of fame, have a greater sense of entitlement and therefore are more likely to excuse themselves for their failings.” So apologizing or owning up to their mistakes? No way. It’s not their fault for lying. It’s your fault for being so petty and pointing out their lie. 

  1. Do As I Say, Not As I Do

“You are not allowed to drink wine or alcohol in my house. It’s a vile activity and I will not have it!” Proclaimed the hypocrite… who is hiding 3 liters of boxed Four Cousins wine in their wardrobe. Granted it’s their house and their rules but, why are they not practicing what they are preaching? 

A Batson and colleagues study that spans 5 years concluded that “the nature of moral behavior to be hypocrisy; that is, people desire to appear moral to themselves and others without practicing moral behavior (Batson et al., 1997,1999, 2002)”. Hypocrites are smug and get a rush of self-righteousness when they get on their high horse to criticize and crush others doing the exact same thing they are doing. Which brings me to my next point. 

  1. They Judge Others But Are Offended When They Are Judged 

You may have already picked up that hypocrites suffer from a form of cognitive dissonance and deception, which means that attitudes and behaviors conflict. Who they say and portray themselves to be is not in alignment to how they act with a select few and by themselves. 

While they gladly engage in duplicitous behavior, they will be *quite* offended at being called out for or made aware of it. When they are personally judged, they will call others intolerant… even when that’s what they were doing. 


If you identified any sarcasm and irrational thought processes : you’re absolutely right. Hypocrites, especially if you have to live with them, will make you feel like you’re in a nonsensical life loop and your brain will feel muddled, because you see that there’s no cohesion in their actions and it’s unsettling to someone who is less hypocritical. Bonus points if they have malignant narcissistic traits. Oy.

 Do you identify with any of the above mentioned behaviors? Do you see yourself in some of these habits? Does someone you know come to mind? Although we can be harsher with ourselves then others, this video is intended to show you some behaviors that you may have to not shame you but to make you more aware of it and even give yourself some grace. It’s also intended to help you identify those who are unrepentant and unaware of the consequences of their hypocrisy and to limit your exposure to them and the likelihood of being their unsuspecting prey. 

We hope that you found this helpful, Psych2Go-ers. If you know of any other behaviors , please share them in the comments below. 


*Bian, J., Li, L., Xia, X., & Fu, X. (1AD, January 1). Effects of the presence and behavior of in-group and out-group strangers on Moral Hypocrisy. Frontiers. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from  

*Graham, J., Meindl, P., Koleva, S., Iyer, R., & Johnson, K. M. (2015). When values and behavior conflict: Moral pluralism and intrapersonal moral hypocrisy. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9(3), 158–170.  

* Jordan, J. (2017, January 30). We dislike hypocrites because they deceive us. Association for Psychological Science – APS. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from 

*Sonnenberg, F. (2022, September 5). 23 ways to spot a hypocrite. Frank Sonnenberg Online. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from 

*Unknown , U. (2021, January 22). The psychology of hypocrisy – why we do it & how to stop. Straight Talk Clinic. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from 

*Whitbourne , S. K. (2016, March 1). 5 ways to spot the hypocrites in your life . Google. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from 

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