Social Justice Research

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 152–181 | Cite as

The Social Value of Expressing Personal and General Belief in a Just World in Different Contexts

  • Hélder V. Alves
  • Bernard Gangloff
  • Sören Umlauft


Research conducted in France and Portugal has consistently found that expressing high versus low Belief in a Personal Just World (BJW-P) is more socially valued. Results concerning the Belief in a General Just World (BJW-G) have been mixed. We propose this reflects a higher resistance of BJW-P social value to contextual changes. Testing this idea was the main goal of three experimental studies conducted in France, Germany and Portugal. In Study 1 (N = 283) participants expressed higher BJW-G when asked to convey a positive versus a negative image in a job application at a bank. The opposite pattern showed up when they applied for a job at a Human Rights NGO, an employment assistance institution and a trade union. Participants expressed higher BJW-P in all contexts, except at the trade union (no significant differences). In Study 2 (N = 489) participants judged bogus candidates who expressed high or low BJW-P/G while applying for a job at the same contexts. The patterns of judgments replicated those of self-presentations in Study 1. In Study 3 (N = 158), participants were asked to judge targets who expressed high versus moderate versus low BJW-P at a trade union. The former target was more socially valued than the other two. High versus low BJW-P expression was associated with higher stamina and less unadjusted self-enhancement. We conclude that in Western societies the expression of BJW-P is more central to the legitimation of the status quo and that of BJW-G is more context sensitive.


Belief in a just world Context Social value Self-presentation Judgment norms 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Social (CIS-IUL)Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL)LisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Laboratoire Parisien de Psychologie SocialeUniversité Paris 10ParisFrance
  3. 3.Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Pädagogik Arbeitsbereich Pädagogische PsychologieHalleGermany

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