Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Causal Attributions of Workplace Gender Equality, Just World Belief, and the Self/other Distinction

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Causal Attributions of Workplace Gender Equality, Just World Belief, and the Self/other Distinction

Article excerpt

We conducted 2 surveys in Istanbul, Turkey, to investigate the moderating effects of belief in a just world (BJW) on the links between perceived gender equality and causal attributions in the workplace with 2 samples of bank employees from varying hierarchical positions (M age = 30). Results from a unidimensional BJW scale (Dalbert & Yamauchi, 1994) used in Study 1 (N = 136) showed a negative relationship between perceived gender equality and internal causal attributions only for high BJW scores. Results from a bidimensional scale measuring BJW for self and for others (Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996) used in Study 2(N = 168) replicated this pattern for BJW both for self and for others. However, only BJW for others, which was found to be linked to social discrimination indices, moderated the negative relationship between perceived gender equality and external attributions. These findings support the relevance of the bidimensional conception of BJW and the predictions related to causal attribution theory and the just world hypothesis.

Keywords: belief in a just world, causal attribution, workplace gender equality, self/other distinction.

Belief in a just world (BJW) is often examined in terms of a fundamental attitudinal orientation involving individuals buffering negative feelings when faced with injustice and victimization (see Montada, 1998). OriginaUy defined as the fundamental need to beUeve that in this world people get what they deserve (Lerner, 1965, 1980; Lerner & MUler, 1978) BJW was soon shown to function as a cognitive bias activated to justify observed injustice. For example, in one of the early experimental investigations, Zuckerman (1975) showed that one way for individuals to maintain their BJW was for them to engage in action that helped die victims of injustice. When action, or the selected option, is not an avaUable, another cognitive strategy that can be employed to sustain BJW is to minimize the social inequalities that pose a challenge to it.

On a coUective scale, it has been demonstrated in cross-cultural comparisons that there is another important role played by BJW: since the behef acts to justify observed social injustice, it buffers the effects of perceived inequaüty, and thereby makes Ufe bearable in overtly unjust situations and societies. An example of this buffering in operation is provided in Furnham's (1985) study in South Africa before the abolition of apartheid. He concluded that BJW functioned to help people make sense of the status quo and cope with it. In Western societies BJW has been shown to be positively related to poUtical conservatism and die endorsement of traditional roles for women (Furnham & Karani, 1985; Wagstaff & Quirk, 1983). BJW seems, then, to motivate the denial of injustice through changing one's views about the facts, instead of trying to change the facts themselves.

In turn, however, strong BJW seems to come with several psychological benefits. Dalbert (1998) showed that on a personal level BJW helps people who are themselves victims of an unjust fate to cope with their predicament. Later, the same author argued that this happens because BJW decreases feelings of anger in people who experience negative events. Through this mechanism, BJW can sustain feelings of well-being (Dalbert, 2002). A rich Uterature links BJW with a number of measures of psychological adjustment including mental health in unemployed adolescents (Dzuka & Dalbert, 2002), homeless people's optimism (LittreU & Beck, 1999), elderly people's quality of sleep (Jensen, Dehlin, Hagberg, Samuelsson, & Svensson, 1998), general lower levels of depression (Ritter, Benson, & Snyder, 1990), more effective coping with potential stress (Tomaka & Blascovich, 1994) and stronger positive affect (Dalbert, 1998).

Such psychological benefits would explain why individuals activate cognitive mechanisms to secure their beUef in a just world against contradictory evidence by minimizing the injustices that they see happening to others. …

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