The belief in a just world and immanent justice reasoning in adults

Mitchell J. Callan, John H. Ellard, Jennifer E. Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (SciVal)


Deciding that negative experiences are punishment for prior misdeeds, even when plausible causal links are missing, is immanent justice (IJ) reasoning (Piaget, 1932/1965). Three studies examined a just world theory analysis of IJ reasoning in adults (Lerner, 1980). Studies 1 and 2 varied the valence of a target person's behavior prior to them experiencing an unrelated negative (car accident, Study 1) or positive (lottery win, Study 2) outcome. Participants viewed the outcomes as the result of prior behavior most when they fit deservingness expectations (good person won the lottery, bad person injured in automobile accident), suggesting that just world concerns influenced IJ reasoning. The lottery-winning finding (Study 2) also extends IJ reasoning to positive experiences. A third study found that a manipulation of just world threat in one context (prolonged or ended suffering of an HIV victim) influenced IJ responses in a subsequent unrelated context (automobile accident scenario).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1646-1658
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • Belief in a just world
  • Deservingness
  • Immanent justice
  • Justice motivation
  • Moral reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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