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The Justice Sensitivity Inventory: Factorial Validity, Location in the Personality Facet Space, Demographic Pattern, and Normative Data

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Abstract

This article investigates the psychometric properties of a self-report inventory for measuring individual differences in four components of justice sensitivity (JS): victim sensitivity, observer sensitivity, beneficiary sensitivity, and perpetrator sensitivity. A representative sample (N = 2510) was employed to (a) estimate the reliability of a newly developed perpetrator sensitivity scale, (b) test the factorial validity of this scale together with three previously developed scales (victim, observer, and beneficiary sensitivity), (c) estimate correlations between JS and demographic variables (gender, age, education, employment status, marital status, and residency in East versus West Germany), and (d) provide normative data for the computation of standard scores. A demographically heterogeneous convenience sample (N = 327) was used to locate the JS dimensions in the personality space of narrow facet factors. Results from confirmatory factor analyses demonstrated the factorial validity of the JS scales. Regression analyses with JS scales as criteria and personality facet scales as predictors suggested that JS cannot be reduced to combinations of personality facets. Demographic effects were small, explaining a maximum of 1.4% of JS variance. Women and East Germans were found to be more justice sensitive than men and West Germans, respectively. Victim sensitivity decreased with age; perpetrator sensitivity decreased with education. Taken together, our results corroborate the validity of the JS Inventory and contribute to a better psychological understanding of JS.

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Notes

  1. The justice sensitivity scales were originally developed in German. Besides the German and the English (see “Appendix” section) versions, Chinese, French, Croatian, Dutch, Turkish, and Czech versions of the scales are available and can be obtained upon request. Note, however, that the measurement equivalence of these versions vis-à-vis the original German version has not yet been tested. Knowing the distribution of the German scales in a representative sample of German citizens may be valuable for the process of investigating measurement equivalence, and, eventually, for identifying cross-cultural differences in justice sensitivity.

  2. The crucial psychological elements that differ between perspectives include emotions experienced in the face of injustice (Mikula et al., 1990, 1998; Montada, 1993). Sensitive victims get angry, sensitive observes get morally outraged, and sensitive perpetrators feel guilty (Tobey-Klass, 1978). Guilt is also the predominant emotion of sensitive beneficiaries (Montada et al., 1986). However, whereas perpetrator guilt is a reaction to active wrongdoing, beneficiary guilt refers to benefitting passively from the wrongdoing of another person or from an unjust fate. Accordingly, perpetrator guilt has been called action guilt and beneficiary guilt has been called existential guilt (Hoffman, 1976; Montada et al., 1986). Consequently, the perpetrator scale differs from the other scales in referring to (a) injustice as a cause of one’s own active wrongdoing, and (b) guilt as emotional reaction. We decided to change only the crucial psychological elements across perspectives and to hold the types of injustice invariant. Specifically, all perspectives equally address distributive, procedural, and interpersonal justice. This way we avoided confounding perspectives and types of injustice, which would have inevitably resulted in an overestimation of the distinctiveness of the justice sensitivity components and the factorial validity of the scales. A disadvantage of this decision may be that holding types of injustice invariant across perspectives introduces a common source of variance if people differ in how morally wrong they consider different types of injustice to be. This common source of variance may inflate the correlations among the justice sensitivity scales and make the sensitivity components appear more similar than they truly are. However, despite this potential disadvantage, our decision seems preferable as it is more conservative and works against our proposal that justice sensitivity can be decomposed into several components.

  3. Confirmatory factor analysis was considered more appropriate than exploratory factor analysis (EFA) because we had clear expectations about the factorial structure of the 40 items. Nevertheless, results from EFA can be informative because obtaining an expected factorial structure without imposing any restrictions provides support for the theoretically predicted structure. For this reason, we also performed an EFA (principle axes factoring with oblimin rotation to simple structure). The results of this analysis (factor pattern and factor structure matrices) can be obtained from the authors upon request. As predicted, the first four factors had eigenvalues >1. After rotation, the simple structure of the victim, observer, and perpetrator items was close to perfect: Primary loadings were high; secondary loadings were close to zero. By contrast, the first four beneficiary items had high loadings on the perpetrator factor. Although this is a limitation from a measurement point of view, it is theoretically feasible because, unlike items 5 through 10, these items imply a negative interdependence between one’s own advantage and another’s disadvantage. This direct interdependence comes closer to agency than does benefitting from injustice without an identifiable victim.

  4. Following the suggestion of a reviewer, models with fewer factors could be assumed up to a single (general) sensitivity factor model. However, as results of the analysis just reported with the correlation between perpetrator factor and beneficiary factor constrained to 1 have shown, all four factors were needed to account for the variances of and covariances among the manifest variables. Because perpetrator and beneficiary factors had the highest correlation of all factors, any other model with a reduced number of factors would, by mathematical implication, fit even worse.

  5. For example, it can be seen from Table 6 that an observer sensitivity raw score of 10 corresponds to the 22nd percentile of the observer sensitivity distribution. Furthermore, as normal distribution calculators affirm, a z-score of z = −.77219, for example, cuts 22% of the area under the standard normal distribution to the left. It follows that: T − nl = −.77219 × 10 + 50 = 42.28. This value differs by only a small rounding error from the value given in Table 6.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Christine Altstötter-Gleich for assessing participants in Sample 2 and Christine Platzer for providing items for an earlier version of the perpetrator sensitivity scale. We thank Jane Thompson for helpful comments on this article.

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Correspondence to Manfred Schmitt.

Appendix

Appendix

How Do You React in Unfair Situations?

People react quite differently in unfair situations. How about you? First, we will look at situations to the advantage of others and to your own disadvantage.

  

Not at all

Exactly

1

It bothers me when others receive something that ought to be mine

0

1

2

3

4

5

2

It makes me angry when others receive a reward that I have earned

0

1

2

3

4

5

3

I cannot easily bear it when others profit unilaterally from me

0

1

2

3

4

5

4

It takes me a long time to forget when I have to fix others’ carelessness

0

1

2

3

4

5

5

It gets me down when I get fewer opportunities than others to develop my skills

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

It makes me angry when others are undeservingly better off than me

0

1

2

3

4

5

7

It worries me when I have to work hard for things that come easily to others

0

1

2

3

4

5

8

I ruminate for a long time when other people are treated better than me

0

1

2

3

4

5

9

It burdens me to be criticized for things that are overlooked with others

0

1

2

3

4

5

10

It makes me angry when I am treated worse than others

0

1

2

3

4

5

Now, we will look at situations in which you notice or learn that someone else is being treated unfairly, put at a disadvantage, or used.

  

Not at all

Exactly

11

It bothers me when someone gets something they don’t deserve

0

1

2

3

4

5

12

I am upset when someone does not get a reward he/she has earned

0

1

2

3

4

5

13

I cannot easily bear it when someone unilaterally profits from others

0

1

2

3

4

5

14

It takes me a long time to forget when someone else has to fix others’ carelessness

0

1

2

3

4

5

15

It disturbs me when someone receives fewer opportunities to develop his/her skills than others

0

1

2

3

4

5

16

I am upset when someone is undeservingly worse off than others

0

1

2

3

4

5

17

It worries me when someone has to work hard for things that come easily to others

0

1

2

3

4

5

18

I ruminate for a long time when someone is treated nicer than others for no reason

0

1

2

3

4

5

19

It gets me down to see someone criticized for things that are overlooked with others

0

1

2

3

4

5

20

I am upset when someone is treated worse than others

0

1

2

3

4

5

Now, we will look at situations that turn out to your advantage and to the disadvantage of others.

  

Not at all

Exactly

21

It disturbs me when I receive what others ought to have

0

1

2

3

4

5

22

I have a bad conscience when I receive a reward that someone else has earned

0

1

2

3

4

5

23

I cannot easily bear it to unilaterally profit from others

0

1

2

3

4

5

24

It takes me a long time to forget when others have to fix my carelessness

0

1

2

3

4

5

25

It disturbs me when I receive more opportunities than others to develop my skills

0

1

2

3

4

5

26

I feel guilty when I am better off than others for no reason

0

1

2

3

4

5

27

It bothers me when things come easily to me that others have to work hard for

0

1

2

3

4

5

28

I ruminate for a long time about being treated nicer than others for no reason

0

1

2

3

4

5

29

It bothers me when someone tolerates things with me that other people are being criticized for

0

1

2

3

4

5

30

I feel guilty when I receive better treatment than others

0

1

2

3

4

5

Finally, we will look at situations in which you treat someone else unfairly, discriminate against someone, or exploit someone.

  

Not at all

Exactly

31

It gets me down when I take something from someone else that I don’t deserve

0

1

2

3

4

5

32

I have a bad conscience when I deny someone the acknowledgment he or she deserves

0

1

2

3

4

5

33

I cannot stand the feeling of exploiting someone

0

1

2

3

4

5

34

It takes me a long time to forget when I allow myself to be careless at the expense of someone else

0

1

2

3

4

5

35

It disturbs me when I take away from someone else the possibility of developing his or her potential

0

1

2

3

4

5

36

I feel guilty when I enrich myself at the cost of others

0

1

2

3

4

5

37

It bothers me when I use tricks to achieve something while others have to struggle for it

0

1

2

3

4

5

38

I ruminate for a long time when I treat someone less friendly than others without a reason

0

1

2

3

4

5

39

I have a bad conscience when I criticize someone for things I tolerate in others

0

1

2

3

4

5

40

I feel guilty when I treat someone worse than others

0

1

2

3

4

5

  1. Note: Items 1 through 10 measure victim sensitivity, 11 through 20 measure observer sensitivity, 21 through 30 measure beneficiary sensitivity, and 31 through 40 measure perpetrator sensitivity. Based on feedback from English native speakers, the wording of the victim, observer, and beneficiary sensitivity items was changed slightly compared to Schmitt et al. (2005). Results are not affected by these changes because all data reported here were collected with the original German version of the Justice Sensitivity Inventory, which has remained constant in wording across all samples included in the present analyses.

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Schmitt, M., Baumert, A., Gollwitzer, M. et al. The Justice Sensitivity Inventory: Factorial Validity, Location in the Personality Facet Space, Demographic Pattern, and Normative Data. Soc Just Res 23, 211–238 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-010-0115-2

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