An investigation of the social and political correlates of believing in a just world

Caron Deborah Davies, University of Pennsylvania


The just world hypothesis was originally formulated as an explanation of why people blame innocent victims. The theory asserts that individuals have a need to believe that the world is a just and orderly place where good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. Previous research on individual differences and the belief in a just world show that people who hold the belief more strongly tend to justify the fate of the oppressed, have an internal locus of control, believe in an active god, be politically conservative and hold negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. This study furthered our understanding of the construct of the belief in a just world by examining the relationship of the belief with (1) rape callous attitudes; (2) liberalism; (3) social consciousness; (4) attitudes toward feminism; (5) ethnic background; (6) family income; (7) personal victimization and explored the role of empathy as a mediator of just world beliefs. Results from previous investigations led to the expectation that the belief would vary directly with rape callous attitudes and inversely with liberalism, social consciousness, attitudes toward feminism and empathy. The subjects were 450 fourth-year students at the University of Pennsylvania. The students were mailed the questionnaires in early November and were paid $10.00 each for completing them. The data was analyzed through a series of correlations, partial correlations and analysis of variances. The results from this study indicate that the belief in a just world is, in general, related to the other variables. However, the notion that the belief is an all encompassing belief that exerts the primary influence in one's perception of his or her environment was not supported. Empathy was found to mediate the impact of believing in a just world. The findings are discussed in the context of the implications for the just world hypothesis.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Social studies education|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Davies, Caron Deborah, "An investigation of the social and political correlates of believing in a just world" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9321499.