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Just World Hypothesis

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 9 months ago

Just World Hypothesis


The just-world phenomenon, also called the just-world effect or just-world hypothesis, refers to the tendency for people to believe the world is "just" and so therefore people "get what they deserve." This is also known as Victim blaming.


One study gave women what appeared to be painful electric shocks while working on a difficult memory problem. Those who observed the experiment appeared to blame the victim for her fate, praised the experiment, and rated her as being less physically attractive than those who had seen her but not the experiment.


In another study, subjects were told two versions of a story about an interaction between a woman and a man. Both variations were exactly the same, except at the very end the man raped the woman in one and in the other he proposed marriage. In both conditions, subjects viewed the woman's (identical) actions as inevitably leading to the (very different) results.


Studies have shown that those who believe in a "just world" may be more likely to believe that rape victims must have behaved seductively, battered wives must have deserved their beatings, that sick people must have caused their own illness, or that the poor deserve their lot.


In this way, if something good (like a job promotion) or bad (like an injury) occurs, people attribute the occurrence to the person, not to a chance turn of events. For example, some people feel that those living on the street are homeless because they are too lazy to find a job, rather than considering alternatives such as bad luck or mental illness. Likewise, if someone invests well and is rewarded by it, most people believe that the person is smart and a good investor, instead of it being chance.


Closely related cognitive biases include hindsight bias, the illusion of control, the halo effect, self-serving bias and the fundamental attribution error. The effect could also be explained in terms of cognitive dissonance theory.


The just-world phenomenon was first theorized by Melvin Lerner.



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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Just-world phenomenon".


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