Shattered Beliefs: How to Cope When the World Is not a Just Place?

  • Rachel Fasel
  • Dario Spini
Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS, volume 17)


This chapter evaluates some proposals concerning the buffering effects of the belief in a just world (BJW) on the negative effects of traumatic life events on well-being. The BJW relies on the idea that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get (Lerner, 1960). Dalbert (Soc Justice Res 15:123–145, 2002) defended the argument that the BJW is a stable resource across time and situations. This resource serves an adaptive function fostering a sense of well-being in everyday life and in the face of negative life events. Taking advantage of TRACES and previous results, this chapter will come back on these hypotheses proposing some alternative views on the functioning of beliefs in the context of former Yugoslavia. A main hypothesis developed here is the idea that BJW is not essentially a stable resource. It is negatively influenced by events like wars, and political and economical breakdowns. Some empirical evidence will be presented showing that the accumulation of negative war events, and economic or political exclusion events have indeed a negative effect on the BJW and satisfaction with life and that these effects are longstanding. The central part of this chapter will present mediation models, which show that the negative effect of victimisation accumulation on well-being is due to the decrease of the BJW which is positively linked with well-being. Independently of the level of victimisation, the BJW is always positively linked with satisfaction with life in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro. However, we also found very interesting contrasted moderating effects in Slovenia and Kosovo, which will be commented on. These results indicate that past models concerning BJW do not provide a full understanding of the protective functions of the BJW—which are themselves shattered—in contexts in which collective victimisation events have been experienced.


Former Yugoslavia Belief in a just world Well-being Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia Slovenia Kosovo Satisfaction with life War Events Victim 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVESUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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