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12 Examples of Virtue Signaling

 , October 19, 2018 updated on January 02, 2019
Modesty is the color of virtue.
~ Diogenes
Virtue signaling is the conspicuous communication of moral values and good deeds. The term has negative connotations as it is commonly used to denote virtuous actions and statements are motivated by a desire for social status and self-satisfaction. The following are illustrative examples.


Virtual signaling is often used as a form of persuasion. For example, a public speaker who happens to mention they just flew back from helping earthquake victims before giving a speech about design innovation. Although the virtuous act is completely unrelated to the topic, the audience may be far more sympathetic and engaged due to the increased likability and respectability of the speaker.


A failure to act in a way that aligns to your stated virtuous beliefs. There is often a gap between our ideals and our actual lives and this shouldn't be quickly condemned as hypocrisy where there is effort to move in the right direction. However, in some cases people who signal virtue the strongest are the least interested in actually being virtuous.

Conspicuous Conservation

Conspicuous conservation is the purchase of products that signal a virtue such as care for the environment out of a desire for social status. For example, a consumer who only purchases cosmetics that haven't been tested on animals and often states this fact to friends. Conspicuous conservation may be a positive force that gives businesses incentives to produce environmentally and socially responsible products.


Speaking out about issues in social media without actually acting to support your causes. There is some indication that an act as trivial as hitting a "like button" can boost self-esteem. This easy gratification may reduce overall motivation to actually change the world in some positive way.


A feeling that one's beliefs, actions or affiliations are morally superior to others. This is associated with a tendency to criticise others to signal that you are virtuous. In some cases, an individual who suffers from self-righteousness has limited ability to see their own faults and is therefore unable to improve. This may lead to a vicious cycle whereby the person becomes increasingly dependent on criticism of others to support their own self-esteem.

Radical Chic

Radical chic is the expression of support for radical political ideas and causes because they are fashionable at a point in time. The term implies that ideology is viewed as a fashion accessory with no underlying commitment to the cause.


Business efforts to appear to be environmentally or socially responsible that are more about brand image than making positive changes. It is common for firms who rank amongst the world's worst polluters to offer communications and visual branding designed to suggest they are environmentally friendly.


Sharewashing is when a company with a standard business model pretends to be part of the "sharing economy" as a means of virtue signaling or to avoid regulations.

Political Correctness

Political correctness has several different levels. It can be used in order to be polite and to avoid unintended negative connotations. Alternatively, political correctness can be used as a form of virtue signaling whereby a group expound the virtues of a new vocabulary and characterize old ways of saying things as morally corrupt. The new "correct" words symbolize membership in a political ideology while the "incorrect" words are associated with the political opposition.


Groupthink is the practice of adhering to the "accepted" opinions and practices of a group without challenge or open communication. This is done to create a sense of harmony and belonging. Groupthink is often a type of virtue signaling as the group typically views itself as virtuous while outsiders may be villainized. Everyone in the group carefully adheres to its orthodoxy. Self-appointed members of the group seek out and label any sign of dissent. Dissent results in expulsion from the group as opposed to debate.

Social Desirability Bias

Answering questions in a way that will be viewed favorably by others as opposed to saying what you actually think. For example, pretending to align to a political ideology in order to avoid social or economic repercussions.


Tribalism is the formation of group loyalties based on some common trait, past, experience or way of thinking. This is often associated with virtue signaling as group membership may be viewed as a virtue. In many cases, outsiders will be assigned a variety of negative traits by the group. For example, a tribe of soccer fans loyal to a local team who view themselves as intelligent, loyal and honorable whereas fans of a competing team are viewed as unintelligent and unscrupulous.


Virtue signaling isn't necessarily negative as it can create awareness and momentum for important issues. The desire for social status is a basic type of human motivation. If this can be directed toward doing something positive it is difficult to say this is a bad thing. Where virtue signaling is most negative is where it is completely hollow and hypocritical such that it is used to hide destructive behavior.
The main alternative to virtue signaling is keeping your virtues to yourself and waiting until people notice on their own. This also implies that you not conspicuously attack the faults of others without first addressing your own faults.
Overview: Virtue Signaling
DefinitionThe conspicuous communication of moral values and good deeds.
Also Known AsVirtue Signalling
(British spelling)
Related Concepts


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