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Self-Regulation Hypothesis of Coping with an Unjust World: Ego-Depletion and Self-Affirmation as Underlying Aspects of Blaming of Innocent Victims

NCJ Number
Social Justice Research Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2012 Pages: 1-13
Annemarie Loseman; Kees van den Bos
Date Published
March 2012
13 pages
This paper introduced a self-regulation perspective on dealing with threats to the Belief in a Just World (BJW) in which people get what they deserve.
People have a need to Belief in a Just World (BJW) in which people get what they deserve. When people are confronted with an event which threatens this BJW (e.g. when they witness a girl falling victim to rape), people try to maintain their existing beliefs, for example, by blaming the innocent victim for her ill fate. The authors argue that this defensive process of blaming innocent victims in essence stems from self-regulatory failure. In accordance with this line of reasoning, the first experiment shows that when self-regulatory resources were depleted (i.e. in the case of high ego-depletion) before BJW threatening information describing an innocent victim of a rape crime, the effect of BJW threat on victim blaming amplified. Study 2 shows that when self-regulation was facilitated by means of self-affirmation after the BJW threatening information, the effect of BJW threat on victim blaming vanished. Taken together, the findings suggest that coping with BJW threats involve self-regulatory processes leading to more or less defensive reactions (like blaming innocent victims). When people's self-regulatory resources are depleted, they react more negatively to innocent victims when they constitute a stronger threat to the BJW. Facilitating self-regulation, by means of self-affirmation, enables people to cope with BJW threatening information, thereby inhibiting the urge to blame innocent victims. Abstract published by arrangement with Springer.