The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion

Posted on March 2, 2017

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – George Orwell

The quote by famous author George Orwell accurately highlights the stark reality that all of us face –the unfairness of life. We may whine and complain but at the end of the day, we seem to grow less and less surprised at the unjust world. Still, we all have a part that likes to believe the world should be fair. Termed as “the just-world hypothesis”, Lerner and Miller (1978) explains how individuals need to believe that they get what they deserve at the end of the day.

One example would be from Hafer and Beague (2005):
“A woman is raped by a stranger who sneaks into her apartment while she takes out the garbage […] The rape victim described how several people (even one close friend) suggested that she was partly to blame, in one case because of her “negative attitude” that might have ‘attracted’ more ‘negativity’; in another, by choosing to live in that particular neighborhood.” (referring to: After Silence: Rape & My Journey Back)

As we can see, “the-just-world hypothesis” compels people to make all sorts of accusations in situations. They see a world where the sole cause to misfortune is one’s own misdoing and that good things only happen to good people. Such belief allows people to view their environment as stable and orderly, which will render them the energy and motivation to pursue goals or even perform daily tasks.

All of us are victims of the just-world hypothesis, but to varying extent. Even though not all of us are under the same veil of delusion, the bias serves to be a critical reason to examine why some people persist to play the blame game when there is none.


Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Source material from Psyblog


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