Selective exposure to deserved outcomes

Annelie J. Harvey, Mitchell J. Callan, Robbie M. Sutton, Tom Foulsham, William J. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)
150 Downloads (Pure)


Research has shown that people often reinterpret their experiences of others’ harm and suffering to maintain the functional belief that people get what they deserve (e.g., by blaming the victim). Rather than focusing on such reactive responses to harm and suffering, across 7 studies we examined whether people selectively and proactively choose to be exposed to information about deserved rather than undeserved outcomes. We consistently found that participants selectively chose to learn that bad (good) things happened to bad (good) people (Studies 1 to 7)—that is, they selectively exposed themselves to deserved outcomes. This effect was mediated by the perceived deservingness of outcomes (Studies 2 and 3), and was reduced when participants learned that wrongdoers otherwise received “just deserts” for their transgressions (Study 7). Participants were not simply selectively avoiding information about undeserved outcomes but actively sought information about deserved outcomes (Studies 3 and 4), and participants invested effort in this pattern of selective exposure, seeking out information about deserved outcomes even when it was more time-consuming to find than undeserved outcomes (Studies 5 and 6). Taken together, these findings cast light on a more proactive, anticipatory means by which people maintain a commitment to deservingness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-43
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Early online date12 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2017


  • belief in a just world
  • deservingness
  • information seeking
  • selective exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Selective exposure to deserved outcomes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this