Immanent Justice Reasoning. Theory, Research, and Current Directions.

Mitchell J. Callan, Robbie M. Sutton, Annelie J. Harvey, Rael J. Dawtry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (SciVal)


Immanent justice reasoning involves causally attributing a deserved outcome to someone's prior moral deeds or character, even when such a causal connection is physically implausible. This chapter describes a body of work showing that immanent justice reasoning is (a) motivated, in part, by the need to construe outcomes as deserved; (b) driven by intuitive more than controlled mental processes; and (c) more openly expressed among individuals who believe in supernatural phenomena. This review also documents several additional lines of inquiry exploring key assumptions about the nature, origins, and functions of immanent justice reasoning, including immanent justice reasoning for self-relevant fortuitous outcomes, the social-communicative function of immanent justice reasoning, and the interplay between immanent justice and normative causal reasoning. Early research portrayed immanent justice reasoning as unique to children, but this chapter identifies several conditions under which it is predictably displayed by adults. Immanent justice reasoning serves important psychological functions in adulthood, and is underpinned by reasoning processes and metaphysical assumptions that are not put away when children become adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-161
Number of pages57
JournalAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
Early online date16 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Causal reasoning
  • Deservingness
  • Immanent justice reasoning
  • Intuitive thinking
  • Just world theory
  • Justice motivation
  • Magical thinking
  • Moral reasoning
  • Religiosity
  • Social communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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