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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Remembering a Just World: Motivated Recall of Victim Culpability

Sahil Sharma
New York University

Research over the last 30 years has demonstrated that individuals will often blame the victim for his or her misfortune. Just World Theory (Lerner, 1980) argues that individuals do so because they are
motivated to perceive their world as fair and just. Gender seems to moderate the effect of Belief in a Just World (BJW) on victim blame. Conflicting evidence suggests that this motivation affects women in different ways from men—she either blames the victim more (Janoff-Bulman, 1980) when there is a threat to the just world or less (Foley & Pigot, 2000) regardless of threat. It is less clear whether just world concerns impact recall of actual victim culpability. In this paper, we investigate whether individuals misremember information about victim responsibility for a sexual assault in order to satisfy the goal to believe that the world is just. We hypothesize that individuals whose just world motive has been experimentally heightened will be more likely to misremember details of a sexual assault in a way that confers responsibility on the victim. Results showed that memory mediates victim-blame. Men, when faced with a high threat to their belief in a just world, blamed the victim more than did women and misremembered the victimization of a female to inculcate greater blame.

The entire paper is here.