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Rational hypocrisy: A bayesian analysis based on informal argumentation and slippery slopes


Moral hypocrisy is typically viewed as an ethical accusation: Someone is applying different moral standards to essentially identical cases, dishonestly claiming that one action is acceptable while otherwise equivalent actions are not. We suggest that in some instances the apparent logical inconsistency stems from different evaluations of a weak argument, rather than dishonesty per se. Extending Corner, Hahn, and Oaksford's (2006) analysis of slippery slope arguments, we develop a Bayesian framework in which accusations of hypocrisy depend on inferences of shared category membership between proposed actions and previous standards, based on prior probabilities that inform the strength of competing hypotheses. Across three experiments, we demonstrate that inferences of hypocrisy increase as perceptions of the likelihood of shared category membership between precedent cases and current cases increase, that these inferences follow established principles of category induction, and that the presence of self-serving motives increases inferences of hypocrisy independent of changes in the actions themselves. Taken together, these results demonstrate that Bayesian analyses of weak arguments may have implications for assessing moral reasoning. © 2014 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.

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