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Just-World Beliefs Increase Helping Intentions via Meaning and Affect

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Our research examines the relationship between just-world beliefs and helping. Specifically, we pose that the belief in just world increases helping intentions via perceptions of meaning in life. Consistently, across two studies we found that higher levels of just-world beliefs corresponded with stronger helping intentions. In Study 1, individual differences in just-world beliefs correlated positively with helping intentions. In Study 2, experimentally induced higher (vs. lower) levels of just-world beliefs led to stronger intentions to help others. In both studies, we found that the presence of meaning in life mediated the effects of just-world beliefs on helping intentions, indicating that these prosocial effects of just-world beliefs are established through the impression that life is meaningful. We further found that positive affect plays a mediational role in these effects by linking the perceptions of meaning to helping intentions. This research provides insights into the socially desirable consequences of just-world beliefs by highlighting the crucial roles of existential appraisals and affective states.

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  1. Search for meaning in life was assessed in Study 1 and 2 because we used the complete MLQ (Steger et al. 2006), which includes this subscale. However, given that it was not central to our examination, we did not consider this subscale in our main analyses.

  2. The measurement of procedural and distributive justice for the self and others (PDJS; Lucas et al. 2011) served as an additional beliefs scale.


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Correspondence to Eric R. Igou.

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The authors declare that there are no potential conflicts of interest concerning the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. All authors consented to the submission of this manuscript.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants followed the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All studies have been approved by the Education and Health Sciences Ethics Committee at the University of Limerick.

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All procedures implemented standard ethics procedures reviewed by the EHS Ethics Committee at the University of Limerick. These procedures were consistent with the requirements of the American Psychological Association.

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Igou, E.R., Blake, A.A. & Bless, H. Just-World Beliefs Increase Helping Intentions via Meaning and Affect. J Happiness Stud 22, 2235–2253 (2021).

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