Not so hypocritical after all: belief revision is adaptive and often unnoticed

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


We are all apt to alter our beliefs and even our principles to suit the prevailing winds. Examples abound in public life (think of the politician who bases an election campaign on the need to address the budget emergency represented by a deficit, only to be indifferent to an even larger deficit once in office), but we are all subject to similar reversals. We often accuse one another of hypocrisy when these kinds of reversals occur. Sometimes the accusation is justified. In this paper, however, I will argue that in many such cases, we don’t manifest hypocrisy, even if our change of mind is not in response to new evidence. Marshalling evidence from psychology and evolutionary theory, I will suggest that we are designed to update our beliefs in response to social signals: as these signals change, we change our minds, often without even noticing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmpirically engaged evolutionary ethics
EditorsJohan De Smedt, Helen De Cruz
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783030688028
ISBN (Print)9783030688011
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameSynthese Library
ISSN (Print)0166-6991
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8292


  • Belief
  • Belief update
  • Cognitive science of religion
  • Conformity bias
  • Cultural evolution
  • Epistemic vigilance
  • Hypocrisy
  • Political psychology
  • Prestige bias
  • Rationality
  • Social epistemology


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