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The Just-World Theory

Duke

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It's a pervasive idea that infiltrates our culture, media, and our very thoughts: The Just-World Theory(/Fallacy/Hypothesis/Phenomenon/Effect). This is the thought that our world is in fact a fair world. For example, "what goes around, comes around!", or the idea that people generally get what they deserve. It's a comforting idea, that this world is a just, right world. I think all of us have encountered this theory at some point or another; I for one cannot recall the first time I came across it (probably as a threat: "you reap what you sow, beware,"). The Just World Theory often leads people to search for rationalizations in this our irrational world, in order to escape the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. It can also lead to a blame-the-victim sort of attitude.

I am curious to know what others think of this concept.

For further reading: Just-world phenomenon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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Korimyr the Rat

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Nobody gets what they deserve in this world. They don't get what they've earned, or what's coming to them, or anything like that.

People get what they get.
 

Lightdemon

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It's kind of the cousin to "The Glass is half full" phenomenon.
 

Duke

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It's kind of the cousin to "The Glass is half full" phenomenon.

Seems like it. Has anyone read Candide by Voltaire? A lot of these ideas are dealt with in that text.


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From the link:
One study gave women what appeared to be painful electric shocks while working on a difficult memory problem. Those who observed the experiment appeared to blame the victim for her fate, praised the experiment, and rated her as being less physically attractive than did those who had seen her but not the experiment. [1]

In another study, subjects were told two versions of a story about an interaction between a woman and a man. Both variations were exactly the same, except at the very end the man raped the woman in one and in the other he proposed marriage. In both conditions, subjects viewed the woman's (identical) actions as inevitably leading to the (very different) results.[2]

Wow. Those women got what they deserved.

Seriously, this reads more like a cause-effect evolutionary advantage.

Given: cause-effect reasoning leads to more success at modeling reality than not.

If bad things happen to someone, and we viewed it as "oh well, **** happens", it is doubtful it would even approach the success of people who viewed bad things and thought "they apparently resulted from something they did and thus it can be avoided".

That seems to open the mental door to:
1. what was the root cause
2. What can I do to avoid it or limit my risk of experiencing the same.

It's sad to note too that this reaction can be stunted or almost entirely removed by psychological conditioning. Certain torture/prisoner situations, or abusive households for example, can lead people to a feeling of helplessness.
 

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What the OP is referring to is actually called the Gambler's Fallacy.

Gambler's fallacy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It's the mistaken belief that if you pull the slot enough times, then probabilities will eventually turn in your favor because your win will be due (ignoring whether the slot machines are actually programmed to keep you playing).

Another example is coin tossing. A gambler might think that if he tosses the coin enough times, he'll end up with heads. What he forgets is that each time he tosses the coin he stands a 50/50 chance of the coin turning up heads or tails. The odds never extend beyond that one coin toss. All the universe cares about is the one coin toss -- 50/50. So, technically speaking, it is quite possible (note, I didn't say very probable) for one to flip a coin an infinite number of times and still always wind up with tails.

In that respect, one cannot expect "just desserts" or any justifiable outcome, from a universal/godlike angle, out of any action. However, it is fair to say that if you lead a certain lifestyle, a certain outcome will be likely. For example, if you cheat others, it is more likely that an enraged victim of your shennanigans will sue you and ruin your reputation. Equally, if you are a gangster and selling drugs, the odds of being killed by a rival gang rise exponentially. However, there is no anthropomorphic universal law dictating who gets their dues.
 

Duke

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Orion

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I think about this sort of thing more often than is probably healthy... but it usually comes up when I am faced with the moral idea of "justice" in the world.

Frankly, I think it's a dog eat dog world. When I was a bit younger I still fed into the delusion that everyone gets what they deserve and good wins, and bad loses. Now that I've travelled quite a bit I feel that the world is a place where nothing is handed to you, where good and bad are just labels that are arbitrarily assigned.

The people who get everything either have connections, are already rich, have a vast community that they can draw on (you need people who think you "deserve" it to get help from them, and whether or not you "deserve" it is based on their selfish egoistic ideas), are powerful, are unusually attractive, or have special knowledge or skills that someone else wants or thinks is interesting/entertaining.

Few people excel because they are "good"... and the people we would label as "bad" often never face justice. They get away with it the vast majority of the time, and win.

In fact, the more I think about the human world, the more I think of it as being part of nature, and not separate from it. We behave just like the rest of the animal kingdom... the only difference is that we have created more complex rules surrounding how to proceed.
 
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Frankly, I think it's a dog eat dog world. When I was a bit younger I still fed into the delusion that everyone gets what they deserve and good wins, and bad loses.

The people who get everything either have connections, are already rich, have a vast community that they can draw on (you need people who think you "deserve" it to get help from them, and whether or not you "deserve" it is based on their selfish egoistic ideas), are powerful, are unusually attractive, or have special knowledge or skills that someone else wants or thinks is interesting/entertaining.

Few people excel because they are "good"... and the people we would label as "bad" often never face justice. They get away with it the vast majority of the time, and win.

In fact, the more I think about the human world, the more I think of it as being part of nature, and not separate from it. We behave just like the rest of the animal kingdom... the only difference is that we have created more complex rules surrounding how to proceed.

i agree that we are just another part of the animal kingdom, and it is indeed a dog eat dog world, but all actions have their own consequences. if you start yelling at some random stranger in public then security is likely to be called. if you cheat on a significant other, you're likely to get slapped across the face and possibly have some damage to the things you own. you have to compete to be the best but at the same time if you dont do it rightously, its likely to bite you in the a** later on.
 

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i agree that we are just another part of the animal kingdom, and it is indeed a dog eat dog world, but all actions have their own consequences. if you start yelling at some random stranger in public then security is likely to be called. if you cheat on a significant other, you're likely to get slapped across the face and possibly have some damage to the things you own. you have to compete to be the best but at the same time if you dont do it rightously, its likely to bite you in the a** later on.

People are experts at bypassing consequences which is why justice is so rarely evenly distributed. Also, the idea of justice is merely a moral one and morality is determined by majority values. It's the very reason why countries go to war over values, hence me saying that it's pretty egoistic.

All of your examples could just as easily face consequences or not face consequences, and what determines that is completely arbitrary. No one gets what they deserve, they just are in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

We don't live in a just world because "justice" isn't even clearly defined.
 

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moral majority decides what is right for their particular group because anything less is anarchy. the judges and police we elect to enforce or not enforce those laws is also from moral majority.
 

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I see problems with it, but i like where this theory is going. The problem is that sometimes, we don't get what we deserve. I.e. someone being falsely accused or getting ten years in prison for something stupid, but It's a good theory
 

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I see problems with it, but i like where this theory is going. The problem is that sometimes, we don't get what we deserve. I.e. someone being falsely accused or getting ten years in prison for something stupid, but It's a good theory

Sure, it's a good theory, and it sure would be nice if that's the way the world worked... but it doesn't.


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Why is that? And how do you define Karma?


Duke

i believe karma is what you give is what you get in return. you give cheap presents at x-mas, you get cheap presents the next year. you cheat on someone, someone will cheat on you. ive had a lot of experiences in which ive done something wrong, and it ends up biting me right in the butt. those arent two of them, i havent ever done that stuff, but they made good examples. but i observe people. im not a social butterfly, but i have a decent amount of friends and i see what they do, and then what happens to them in return. so i believe in karma. and the balance of yin and yang. but thats a different story.
 
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