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Social perception - The Just World Hypothesis

Video transcript

have you heard of the phrase you got what you deserved you've got what was coming to you or you report you so these phrases imply that there's always an almost predictable and appropriate result a consequence for our actions in these cases a negative action you got what was coming to you you did something wrong or inappropriate and something bad was almost definitely going to happen to you as a result one of the things that this implies it implies a hypothesis called the just world hypothesis noble actions up that are performed by an individual are always rewarded what evil acts are always punished so take for example our colleague Tom and here we have the world the world is obviously not to scale and Tom normally resides there and I'm going to draw this arrow and this arrow represents actions that Tom does on to the world so the first thing is what if Tom formed a noble act he helped an old lady cross the road what would we expect according to the just world hypothesis we would expect a predictable appropriate fair consequence in this example the consequence of a noble act would be a reward now the opposite may also be true if our friend performed an evil act onto the world according to the just world hypothesis he may be punished now what this suggests is that there is some kind of special force some kind of cosmic justice at play that make sure that make sure that good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished and many people think in this way the reason why they may think in this way is because it helps individuals to really rationalize the good fortune or the misfortune of other people it helps them in their own mind to explain why other people may be doing very well or very badly secondly it can help individuals feel that they can influence the world in a very predictable manner it's much easier to plan for the future and engage in goal driven behavior if I work hard I know I'll get what I want if I put the effort in if I put the hours in if I go to school if I do the right thing I'm going to get rewarded in life unfortunately however the just world hypothesis doesn't always hold true because there are a series of threats to it people aren't always rewarded for their noble actions people aren't always punished for their evil deeds and using the just world hypothesis we may for example blame people who are in poverty for being poor or we may blame people who are victims of domestic violence for being victims so one of the things we know about the just world hypothesis is that it's challenged on a daily basis as we walk around the world the world simply isn't fair and what we know is that when we see the world isn't fair when we see good deeds being punished or evil deeds being rewarded we need to try and mentally make sense of that and we can do that in a couple of different ways so when this just world viewpoint is threatened we can approach it in two different ways one way we can approach it is to use some rational techniques we can accept reality or two we can try and prevent or correct injustice we can set up charities or the legal system or set up a petition but another thing that can happen is we can use irrational techniques and in this case we may go into denial refusing to even accept that we've seen a situation or the situation exists and we may also reinterpret the events that we've seen so if we've seen somebody who you know is a victim of violence instead of thinking wow you know this person was really hard and it was such a nice person this really challenges our just world viewpoint we may think and we may kind of reinterpret the outcome we make well you know what it wasn't that bad there you know there's more of a trip or four they weren't really assaulted it could have happened to anyone we could have we could wind up with the cause you know what it's because they're walking in a really tough neighborhood and that's that's why they were assaulted we could reinterpret the character of the victim I always thought that she was a really good human being but now I realized that she probably isn't she was hanging around the wrong people morally I'm not sure what kind of person she is and that's why these are that's happened to them so by reinterpreting events the outcome the cause my character the victim we can use these irrational techniques to keep our just world viewpoint intact now I want to look at this little blue line at the top of the page because one of the things that we like to think about is how do we explain the behavior of other people otherwise known as attribution theory and attribution theory is split up into internal causes factors related to an individual and an individual person's disposition and also external causes factors related to a situation and what are the things that we should appreciate about the just world hypothesis is that it very much seems to over attribute people's actions to personal or dispositional factors and under recognises the complex situational factors that may be at play for example if we see somebody that's if we see somebody that's very poor we may think you know this these are personal failings the this sounded them not taking responsibility for their own actions rather than recognizing the complex social and situation environmental pressures that may have been placed upon them