politics & society | January 13, 2020

NYU's Jay Van Bavel Explores How Tribalism is Increasing Hypocracy in Politics

Hypocrisy in politics is not, by any means, a new concept. But it does seem to be escalating—especially in an Internet age, where every tweet and video clip can be captured and circulated indefinitely. As the 2020 election approaches, NYU’s Associate Professor of Psychology Jay Van Bavel explores how we got here.

“It is pragmatic for politicians to act like hypocrites during periods of hyperpartisanship, since they otherwise might be harassed or expelled from their group for disloyalty,” explains Jay Van Bavel in an article for The Christian Science Monitor. An example of this occurred earlier this year, when Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan was so heavily ostracized by his fellow Republicans for supporting impeachment, that he quit the party and became Independent.


Presenting evidence of a politician’s hypocrisy does little to change behavior, and in fact can be counterproductive. In an effort to reduce cognitive discomfort, people will often “double down on their beliefs or ignore evidence that their behavior is inconsistent with the past,” Van Bavel says.


During his first term in office, Trump has not shied away from being aggressively partisan—a move that got him elected in the first place—maintaining fierce Republican support, while denouncing any potential sway with Democrats or Independents. Van Bavel explains that today, “We are in a vicious cycle of hyperpartisanship that is self-reinforcing.”


Read the full article here.


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