Van Prooijen, J.-W., & Van den Bos, K. (2009). We blame innocent victims more than I do: Self-construal level moderates responses to just world threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1528-1539.


The present study investigated the impact of self-construal levels on people’s tendency to blame innocent victims for their fate. We hypothesized that when the belief in a just world is threatened, social self-construal is associated with more victim blaming than individual self-construal. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were primed with either the individual self (“I”) or with the social self (“We”). Results indeed showed that when threats to just world beliefs were high, social self-activation produced more victim blaming than individual self-activation. This effect was not found when just-world threats were low. Extending on these findings, Experiment 3 revealed that, following a just world threat, an independent self-construal measure was negatively related to victim blaming, and an interdependent self-construal measure was positively related to victim blaming. It is concluded that self-construal levels are important to understand the justice motive.