The main hypothesis of Lerner's just world theory says that people are inclined to think that their physical and social environment is just and that individuals generally get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Contrary to Lerner's assumption, however, it is suggested in the article that in some situations, people may perceive the world as unjust because such a belief has a specific “ego-defensive” compoment for an individual. It is likely, for instance, that the belief in an unjust world, though in itself a legitimate block to success, may be aggrvated in conditions diagnostic for competence and hence can be used as a special form of self-handicapping strategy. This assumption has been tested in a 2 (low vs. high tendency to engate in self-handicapping behaviors) x by 2 (low vs. high opportunity to use the belief in an unjust world as a self-handicapping strategy) experiment. The results of the study fully supported the author's predictions.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Ambrosio, A. L., and Sheehan, E. P. (1990). Factor analysis of the just world scale.J. S. Psychol. 130: 413–415.
Baumeister, R. F., Kahn, J., and Tice, D. M. (1990). Obesity as a self-handicapping strategy: Personality, selective attribution of problems, and weight loss.J. Soc. Psychol. 130: 121–123.
Baumgardner, A. H., Lake, E. A. and Arkin, R. M. (1985). Claiming mood as a self-handicap: The influence of spoiled and unspoiled public identities.Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 11: 349–357.
Berglas, S., and Jones, E. E. (1978). Drug choice as a self-handicapping strategy in response to noncontingent success.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 36: 405–417.
Crocker, J., Cornwell, B., and Major, B. (1993). The stigma of overweight: Affective consequences of attributional ambiguity.J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 64: 60–70.
DeGree, C. E., and Snyder, C. R. (1985). Adler's psychology (of use) today: Personal history of traumatic life events as a self-handicapping strategy.J. Pers. Soc. Pschol. 48: 1512–1519.
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of socical comparison processes.Hum. Rel. 7: 117–140.
Furnham, A., and Procter, E. (1989). Beliefs in a just world: Review and critique of the individual difference literature.Br. J. Soc. Psychol. 28: 365–384.
Hyland, M., and Dann, P. D. (1987). Exploratory factor analysis of the ust world scale using British undergraduates.Br. J. Soc. Psychol. 26: 73–79.
Jones, E. E., and Berglas, S. (1978). Control of attributions about the self through self-handicapping strategies: The appeal of alcohol and the role of underachievement.Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 4: 200–206.
Jones, E. E., and Rhodewalt, F. (1982). Self-Handicapping Scale. Unpublished manuscript. Department of Psychology, Princeton University, and Department of Psychology, University of Utah.
Leary, M. R., and Shepperd, J. A. (1986). Behavioral self-handicap vs. self-reported handicaps: A conceptual note.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 51: 1265–1268.
Lerner, M. J. (1965). Observer's evaluation of performance as a function of performer's reward and attractiveness.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 1: 355–360.
Lerner, M. J. (1970). The desire for justice and reactions to victims. In: Macaulay, J., and Berkowitz, L., (eds.),Altruism and Helping Behavior, Academic Press, New York.
Lerner, M. J. (1977). The justice motive: Some hypothesis as to its origins and forms.J. Pers. 45: 1–52.
Lerner, M. J. (1980).The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion, Plenum Press, New York.
Lenner, M. J., and Miller, D. T. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead.Psychol. Bull. 85: 1030–1050.
Montada, L., and Schneider, A. (1989). Justice and emotional reactions to the disadvantaged.Soc. Just. Res. 3: 313–344.
Rubin, Z., and Peplau, L. A. (1975). Who believes in a just world?J. Soc. Issues, 31: 65–90.
Smith, T. W., Snyder, C. R., and Handelsman, M. M. (1982). On the self-serving function of an academic wooden leg: Test anxiety as a self-handicapping strategy.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 44: 314–321.
Smith, T. W., Snyder, C. R., and Perkins, S. C., (1983). The self-serving function of hypochondrial complaints: Physical symptoms as a self-handicapping strategies.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 44: 787–797.
Snyder, C. R., Smith, T. W., Augelli, R. W., and Ingram, R. E. (1985). On the self-serving function of social anxiety: Shyness as a self-handicapping strategy.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 48: 970–980.
Tomaka, J., and Blascovich, J. (1994). Effects of justice beliefs on cognitive appraisal of an subjective, physiological, and behavioral responses to potential stress.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 67: 732–740.
Whatley, M. A. (1993). Belief in a just world scale: Unidimensional or multidimensional?J. Soc. Psychol. 133: 547–551.
Wylie, C. R. (1979).The Self-Concept: Theory and Research on Selected Topics, University of Nebraska Press, Lincohn.
About this article
Cite this article
Dolinski, D. The belief in an unjust world: An egotistic delusion. Soc Just Res 9, 213–221 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02197248
- just world
- self-handicapping strategy
- self-serving bias