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Does the perception of race influence the tendency to victim blame?
Belief in a Just World.
The concept that proposes that people tend to believe that bad things happen to so called ‘bad people’ and good things happen to ‘good people’ is called
Belief in a Just World (BJW). Furnham (2003) describes BJW as a coping mechanism, that has victim blaming as its most negative consequence. This is
the tendency to blame victims for their own hardships and misfortunes.
People seem to be more likely to victim blame individuals of different backgrounds than victims of the same background as themselves (Anderson,
1992). Research of Hunt (2000) has shown that black people were less likely to have a BJW view of the world and this could mean that they are less
likely to victim blame in general. However, little research has focused on whether people with a certain race are more likely to victim blame people of
This study focused on the differences between black and white participants and whether their perception of a charity recipient’s race influenced their
tendency to victim blame.
Black participants are less likely to victim
blame than white participants (graph 1).
621 American participants completed a
questionnaire. To assess the hypothesis, the
answers of 430 participants were analyzed, out
of which 313 were white, non-Hispanic
participants and 117 black, non-Hispanic
An independent t-test was conducted to
measure the differences in the prevalence of
victim blaming beliefs between races. The
results, as seen in table 1, were all significantly
different for white and black participants.
Graph 1. Predicted correlation hypothesis 1
White participants who are more likely to
apportion the charity recipients as black will
be more likely to believe the questions related
to victim blaming (graph 2).
The analysis focused on four questions. The
first question asked participants to approximate
the percentage of white charity recipients,
whereas the second question asked the
participants for the approximation of African
American recipients. The third question asked
participants to approximate the percentage of
recipients who were poor due to bad choices in
their personal live. This question will measure
the presence of victim blaming. The fourth
question asked participants to approximate the
percentage of recipients being poor mainly due
to reasons beyond their control. This question
will measure the absence of victim blaming.
Believe recipient was poor due to
Bad personal choices
Table 1. Prevalence of victim blame believe
A correlation was conducted between perceived
race percentage of charity recipients and victim
blaming attitudes, separately for the different
races. Most of the results, as seen in table 2,
Recipients perceived as
Believe recipient was poor due to
Graph 2. Predicted correlation hypothesis 2
For black participants there will be no
relationship between apportionment of charity
recipient race and victim blaming beliefs.
To analyze the results, an independent t-test and
a correlation were conducted.
Reasons beyond their
Table 2. Perceived race percentage and victim blaming
* = significant for p < .05
Based on the results, the first hypothesis can be confirmed. Black participants were less likely to generally victim blame than white participants.
The second hypothesis can also be confirmed. White participants tended to victim blame more if they perceived the race of the recipients as dissimilar to
their own and tended to not victim blame if the race was similar.
If black participants perceived the recipients as more likely to be white, there was no difference between whether they tended to blame the victim or did
not blame the victim. However, when they perceived the recipient to be black or of a similar race, they tended to victim blame. Whilst the former
supports the hypothesis, the latter result fails to support it.
Furnham, A. (2003). Belief in a just world: Research progress over the past decade. Personality and individual differences, 34(5), 795-817.
Hunt, M. O. (2000). Status, religion, and the" belief in a just world": Comparing African Americans, Latinos, and Whites. Social Science Quarterly, 325-343.
Anderson, V. N. (1992). For whom is this world just?: Sexual orientation and AIDS. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22(3), 248-259.