Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not actually hold. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches.
“Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself.”
An alcoholic’s pleas for temperance, for example, would not be considered an act of hypocrisy as long as the alcoholic made no pretense of sobriety.
Recent studies in psychology have identified the evolutionary bases and the mental mechanisms of hypocrisy, tracing its roots to adaptations that serve contradictory functions in the human brain, and to cognitive biases and distortions that predispose humans to readily perceive and condemn faults in others, while failing to perceive and condemn faults of their own.