Psych and Prejudice Pt. 4
It's a just world for those who deserve it.
Today in psychology and prejudice, we are discussing the Just World Theory. The Just World Theory is the theory that people get what they deserve. This theory pops up multiple times throughout different spheres of the world, but you may not think that you experience it very often. It also often goes by the terms "blaming the victim."
The Just World Theory is more prevalent than you might think. When you look at a woman who is raped while wearing a shorter dress or a "sexy" Halloween costume (throwing in some holiday twists here) and think that they deserved to have that happen to them, because if they had not been dressed like that then they probably would not have been raped then you are experiencing the Just World Theory. When you look at someone who is homeless on the side of the road with a sign asking for money and decide that they should be homeless because they have not tried to get a job, then that is also the Just World Theory in action. Or, when you believe in karma and that a criminal should have bad things happen to them in prison because they committed crimes while in society, then that is also the Just World Theory (although people in the legal theory sphere like to call it the just deserts approach to corrections).
So, the Just World Theory seems pretty bad, doesn't it? Well, it is not all bad. For example, if you see someone studying a lot and then they subsequently get a good grade on a test, then that is also the Just World Theory. Most people associate the theory with being a reason behind discrimination, but clearly there are some positive aspects to it. If someone gives to charity and is a good person and they happen to get a promotion and you believe they deserved it because they are such a good person, that is also the theory. Therefore, although the Just World Theory is often associated with being used to justify the reasons that bad things happen to people, it is actually used to explain why good things happen to people as well.
This then begs the question: How do you limit the use of the Just World Theory in negative situations? That is definitely a harder thing to tackle, but it is not impossible. It really comes down to being able to look at the situation in its entirety. Did the woman get raped because she was wearing risqué clothing, or was it really just because she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to cross paths with a person who made the wrong decision? Is the homeless man homeless because he does not try to get a job, or is he homeless because he lost his job and has not been able to find another one within his realm of travel? The way to tackle the Just World Theory when it results to thinking negatively about someone is really to just have empathy. If we are able to empathize with someone and try to understand what it is like in their shoes, then we are less likely to say that they deserved for that negative thing to happen to them. Besides, if something bad happened to us, would we want someone to say it was because we deserved it? Probably not, so why do we do it to someone else? We should not, and as a society, we should strive to work at being better people. Who knows, maybe by thinking more positively about each other, we might even start to think more positively about the world itself.