This study explored whether individual differences in the endorsement of the belief that the world is a just place (i.e., the just world belief) would predict individual differences in resilience/vulnerability to the negative health consequences of discrimination. One-hundred and thirty Blacks participated in a vital check and completed a computer-based questionnaire that included measures of the just world belief, perceived discrimination, physical and mental health, and the presence/absence of chronic illnesses. Endorsement of the just world belief was not associated with self-reported physical/mental health; however, it moderated the effects of perceived discrimination on the number of chronic illnesses and systolic blood pressure. These findings suggest that Blacks who believe that the world is a just place where they get what they deserve may be at a particularly higher risk for the negative health consequences of discrimination. Theoretical and clinical implications of the findings are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bastos, J. L., Celeste, R. K., Faerstein, E., & Barros, A. (2010). Racial discrimination and health: A systematic review of scales with a focus on their psychometric properties. Social Science and Medicine, 70, 1091–1099.
Blascovich, J. (2008). Challenge, threat, and health. In J. Y. Shah & W. L. Gardner (Eds.), Handbook of motivation science (pp. 481–493). New York: Guilford Press.
Bonham, V. L., Sellers, S. L., & Neighbors, H. W. (2004). John Henryism and self-reported physical health among high-socioeconomic status African American men. American Journal of Public Health, 94, 737–738.
Borrell, L. N., Kiefe, C. I., Williams, D. R., Diez-Roux, A. V., & Gordon-Larsen, P. (2006). Self-reported health, perceived racial discrimination, and skin color in African Americans in the CARDIA study. Social Science and Medicine, 63, 1415–1427.
Bost, J. E., Williams, B. A., Bottegal, M. T., Dang, Q., & Rubio, D. M. (2007). The 8-item Short-Form Health Survey and the physical comfort composite score of the quality of recovery 40-item scale provide the most responsive assessments of pain, physical function, and mental function during the first 4 days after ambulatory knee surgery with regional anesthesia. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 105, 1693–1700. doi:10.1213/01.ane.0000287659.14893.65
Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Harvey, R. D. (1999). Perceiving pervasive discrimination among African Americans: Implications for group identification and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 135.
Brondolo, E., Rieppi, R., Kelly, K. P., & Gerin, W. (2003). Perceived racism and blood pressure: A review of the literature and conceptual and methodological critique. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 25, 55–65.
Connors, J., & Heaven, P. C. (1990). Belief in a just world and attitudes toward AIDS sufferers. Journal of Social Psychology, 130, 559–560.
Cozzarelli, C., Wilkinson, A. V., & Tagler, M. J. (2001). Attitudes toward the poor and attributions for poverty. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 207–227.
Crandall, C. S., & Martinez, R. (1996). Culture, ideology, and antifat attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1165–1176. doi:10.1177/01461672962211007
Crocker, J., & Major, B. (1989). Social stigma and self-esteem: The self-protective properties of stigma. Psychological Review, 96, 608–630. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.96.4.608
Dalbert, C. (1998). Belief in a just world, well-being, and coping with an unjust fate. In L. Montada & M. J. Lerner (Eds.), Responses to victimization and belief in a just world (pp. 87–105). New York: Plenum.
Dolezsar, C. M., McGrath, J. J., Herzig, A. J., & Miller, S. B. (2014). Perceived racial discrimination and hypertension: A comprehensive systematic review. Health Psychology, 33, 20–34. doi:10.1037/a0033718
Dover, T. L., Major, B., Kunstman, J. W., & Sawyer, P. J. (2015). Does unfairness feel different if it can be linked to group membership? Cognitive, affective, behavioral and physiological implications of discrimination and unfairness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 96–103. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2014.09.003
Eliezer, D., Townsend, S. S., Sawyer, P. J., Major, B., & Mendes, W. B. (2011). System-justifying beliefs moderate the relationship between perceived discrimination and resting blood pressure. Social Cognition, 29, 303–321. doi:10.1521/soco.2011.29.3.303
Fiske, S. T. (2002). Five core social motives, plus or minus five. In S. J. Spencer, S. Fein, M. P. Zanna, & J. M. Olson (Eds.), Motivated social perception: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 9, pp. 878–902). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Gee, G. C. (2002). A multilevel analysis of the relationship between institutional and individual racial discrimination and health status. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 615–623. doi:10.2105/AJPH.92.4.615
Hafer, C. L. (2000). Investment in long-term goals and commitment to just means drive the need to believe in a just world. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1059–1073. doi:10.1177/01461672002611004
Hafer, C. L., & Begue, L. (2005). Experimental research on just-world theory: Problems, developments, and future challenges. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 128.
Hafer, C. L., & Choma, B. L. (2009). Belief in a just world, perceived fairness, and justification of the status quo. In J. Jost, A. C. Kay, & H. Thorisdottir (Eds.), Social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification (pp. 107–125). New York: Oxford University Press.
Hafer, C. L., & Olson, J. M. (1989). Beliefs in a just world and reactions to personal deprivation. Journal of Personality, 57, 799–823.
Haritatos, J., Mahalingam, R., & James, S. A. (2007). John Henryism, self-reported physical health indicators, and the mediating role of perceived stress among high socio-economic status Asian immigrants. Social Science and Medicine, 64, 1192–1203. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.10.037
James, S. A., Hartnett, S. A., & Kalsbeek, W. D. (1983). John Henryism and blood pressure differences among black men. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 6, 259–278.
Jost, J. T., Banaji, M. R., & Nosek, B. A. (2004). A decade of system justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo. Political Psychology, 25, 881–919.
Jost, J. T., & Hunyady, O. (2005). Antecedents and consequences of system-justifying ideologies. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 260–265. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00377.x
Jost, J. T., Pelham, B. W., Sheldon, O., & Ni Sullivan, B. (2003). Social inequality and the reduction of ideological dissonance on behalf of the system: Evidence of enhanced system justification among the disadvantaged. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 13–36.
Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., Peach, J. M., Laurin, K., Friesen, J., Zanna, M. P., et al. (2009). Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to see the way things are as the way they should be. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 421–434. doi:10.1037/a0015997
Krieger, N., & Berkman, L. F. (2000). Discrimination and health: Social epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lehto, R. H., & Stein, K. F. (2013). The impact of John Henryism on self-reported health behaviors in African American men. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 24, 291–296. doi:10.1177/1043659613481673
Lerner, M. J., & Miller, D. T. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 1030.
Levin, S., Sinclair, S., Veniegas, R. C., & Taylor, P. L. (2002). Perceived discrimination in the context of multiple group memberships. Psychological Science, 13, 557–560.
Lipkus, I. M., Dalbert, C., & Siegler, I. C. (1996). The importance of distinguishing the belief in a just world for self versus for others: Implications for psychological well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 666–677.
Logan, J. G., Barksdale, D. J., & Chien, L. C. (2014). Exploring moderating effects of John Henryism active coping on the relationship between education and cardiovascular measures in Korean Americans. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 77, 552–557. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.08.010
Major, B. (1994). From social inequality to personal entitlement: The role of social comparisons legitimacy appraisals, and group membership. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 26, pp. 293–355). San Diego, CA: Academic.
Major, B., Gramzow, R. H., McCoy, S. K., Levin, S., Schmader, T., & Sidanius, J. (2002). Perceiving personal discrimination: The role of group status and legitimizing ideology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 269–282.
Major, B., Kaiser, C. R., & McCoy, S. K. (2003a). It’s not my fault: When and why attributions to prejudice protect self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 772–781. doi:10.1177/0146167203029006009
Major, B., Kaiser, C. R., O’Brien, L. T., & McCoy, S. K. (2007). Perceived discrimination as worldview threat or worldview confirmation: Implications for self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1068–1086. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1998
Major, B., & O’Brien, L. T. (2005). The social psychology of stigma. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 393–421. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070137
Major, B., Quinton, W. J., & Schmader, T. (2003b). Attributions to discrimination and self-esteem: Impact of group identification and situational ambiguity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 220–231. doi:10.1016/S0022-1031(02)00547-4
Matthews, K. A., Salomon, K., Kenyon, K., & Zhou, F. (2005). Unfair treatment, discrimination, and ambulatory blood pressure in Black and White adolescents. Health Psychology, 24, 258–265. doi:10.1037/0278-6188.8.131.528
McEwen, B. S., & Stellar, E. (1993). Stress and the individual: Mechanisms leading to disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 153, 2093–2101.
Murphy, S. L., Xu, J., & Kochanek, K. D. (2013). Deaths: Final data for 2010. National vital statistics reports: From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, 61, 1–117.
Pager, D., & Shepherd, H. (2008). The sociology of discrimination: Racial discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and consumer markets. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 181–209. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131740
Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 531–554. doi:10.1037/a0016059
Pittman, T. S., & Zeigler, K. R. (2007). Basic human needs. In A. W. Kruglanski & T. E. Higgins (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 473–489). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L. M., & Malle, B. F. (1994). Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 741–763. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2061
Quillian, L. (2006). New approaches to understanding racial prejudice and discrimination. Annual Review of Sociology, 32, 299–328.
Ritter, C., Benson, D. E., & Synder, C. (1990). Belief in a just world and depression. Sociological Perspectives, 33, 235–252. doi:10.2307/1389045
Ryan, A. M., Gee, G. C., & Laflamme, D. F. (2006). The association between self-reported discrimination, physical health and blood pressure: Findings from African Americans, Black immigrants, and Latino immigrants in New Hampshire. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 17, 116–132.
Schmitt, M. T., Branscombe, N. R., & Kappen, D. M. (2003). Attitudes toward group-based inequality: Social dominance or social identity? British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 161–186.
Schmitt, M. T., Branscombe, N. R., Postmes, T., & Garcia, A. (2014). The consequences of perceived discrimination for psychological well-being: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 921–948.
Seeman, T. E., Singer, B. H., Rowe, J. W., Horwitz, R. I., & McEwen, B. S. (1997). Price of adaptation—Allostatic load and its health consequences: MacArthur studies of successful aging. Archives of Internal Medicine, 157, 2259–2268.
Sidanius, J., & Pratto, F. (1993). Racism and support of free-market-capitalism: A cross-cultural study of the theoretical structure. Political Psychology, 14, 383–403.
Smedley, B. D., Stith, A. Y., & Nelson, A. R. (2003). Unequal treatment: Confronting racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Strandberg, T. E., & Pitkala, K. (2003). What is the most important component of blood pressure: Systolic, diastolic or pulse pressure? Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hyptertension, 12, 293–297.
Subramanyam, M. A., James, S. A., Diez-Roux, A. V., Hickson, D. A., Sarpong, D., Sims, M., et al. (2013). Socioeconomic status, John Henryism and blood pressure among African-Americans in the Jackson Heart Study. Social Science and Medicine, 93, 139–146. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.06.016
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., & Holder, A. (2008). Racial microaggressions in the life experience of Black Americans. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39, 329.
Tomaka, J., & Blascovich, J. (1994). Effects of justice beliefs on cognitive appraisal of and subjective physiological, and behavioral responses to potential stress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 732–740. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
Townsend, S., Major, B., Sawyer, P. J., & Mendes, W. B. (2010). Can the absence of prejudice be more threatening than its presence? It depends on one’s worldview. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 933–947. doi:10.1037/a0020434
Turner, J. C., & Reynolds, K. (2003). Why social dominance theory has been falsified. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 199–206.
Turner-Bowker, D. M., Bayliss, M. S., Ware, J. E., Jr, & Kosinski, M. (2003). Usefulness of the SF-8 health survey for comparing the impact of migraine and other conditions. Quality of Life Research, 12, 1003–1012.
Ware, J. E., Kosinski, M., Dewey, J. E., & Gandek, B. (2001). How to score and interpret single-item health status measures: A manual for users of the SF-8 health survey. Lincoln, RI: QualityMetric Incorporated.
Williams, D. R. (1999). Race, socioeconomic status, and health the added effects of racism and discrimination. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 896, 173–188.
Williams, D. R., Neighbors, H. W., & Jackson, J. S. (2003). Racial/ethnic discrimination and health: Findings from community studies. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 200–208.
Conflict of Interest
Nao Hagiwara, Courtney J. Alderson and Jessica M. McCauley declared that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Hagiwara, N., Alderson, C.J. & McCauley, J.M. “We get what we deserve”: the belief in a just world and its health consequences for Blacks. J Behav Med 38, 912–921 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9652-3
- Perceived discrimination
- Health disparities
- The just world belief
- Individual differences