, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 313-344

Justice and emotional reactions to the disadvantaged

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Abstract

Various attitutidinal, cognitive, emotional, and actional reactions to problems and needs of less fortunate people (unemployed, poor people in the developing countries, foreign workers in West Germany) were assessed in a questionnaire study with 865 respondents. The external validity of self-report data was established by external ratings. The focus was on emotional reactions (existential guilt, sympathy, moral outrage because of unjust disadvantages, anger about the disadvantaged, contentment with one's own advantages, fear of losing these, hopelessness with respect to the fate of the less fortunate). Several justice-related variables (beliefs, views, appraisals) as well as responsibility-related variables and social attitudes were assessed as predictors of emotions. The importance of justice-related variables for the arousal of different social emotions was clearly shown. The use and usefulness of cognitive models of discrete emotions is discussed. The impact of emotions on the readiness to various forms of prosocial activities in favor of the less fortunate was also shown: Moral outrage and existential guilt proved to be much more salient predictors than sympathy. Crucial differences between these three prosocial emotions as well as the impact of justice-related variables on readiness to prosocial activities are discussed.