• Cognitive Dissonance, Hypocrisy, and Reducing Toleration of Human Rights Violations

      Drolet, Caroline; Department of Psychology
      Despite documents such as the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people still tolerate human rights violations. My dissertation examined possible methods for reducing this toleration. Specifically, I used “hypocrisy induction” to try and reduce toleration of rights violations and encourage pro-human rights responses. Hypocrisy induction—a procedure based on cognitive dissonance—involves having people recognize that their responses in a given situation are at odds with a strongly held attitude. In Study 1, I examined whether people who support human rights would reduce their toleration of a rights violation when confronted with their previous hypocritical toleration. Although participants who were confronted with their hypocrisy were more willing to act to promote human rights, they did not reduce their toleration of a violation, contrary to expectations. One reason for the lack of change in toleration could be that personal toleration of a human rights violation is not directly related to the occurrence of violations. Thus, for Studies 2 and 3, I extended the hypocrisy induction procedure to a case where an ingroup member’s hypocrisy directly resulted in a human rights violation. Specifically, I examined whether Canadians would alter their own toleration of a violation in response to a Canadian official who permitted a human rights violation. Results from both studies indicated that the group-level procedure was effective at encouraging pro-human rights responses, but not at reducing toleration of a violation. Moreover, results from Study 3 indicated that the effect of the group-level procedure was the result of directly-experienced, not vicarious, discomfort. I refer to the dissonance associated with the former type of discomfort as “group-level” dissonance. Although hypocrisy induction was not useful for reducing the toleration of human rights violations, my results suggest that both the group- and individual-level procedures can be used to encourage other pro-human rights responses.