The social psychologist Melvin Lerner coined the term just world hypothesis and was the first to study this phenomenon in any depth. In its simplest form, it states: "individuals have a need to believe that they live in a world where people generally get what they deserve and deserve what they get" [1]

This belief is entirely irrational. Our experience shows us that bad things are just as likely to happen to good people as bad people, and good things are just as likely to happen to bad people as good people. How then do we come to hold this belief contrary to all empirical evidence? It is generally believed that This belief is continually reinforced in the ubiquitous fairy tales, fables, comic books, cop shows and other morality tales of our culture, in which good is always rewarded and evil punished.

The fact that most people have this belief has both positive and negative consequences. It leads us to help people whom we believe to be good people in an attempt to “balance out” the justice in the universe. However when we know nothing of a person in a bad situation and/or it appears that there is nothing that we can do to remove them from the bad situation, we tend to make snap judgments about their character. They wouldn’t be in that situation if they were good people we assure ourselves and walk on down the road. This leads to the phenomenon of “blaming the victim

1. Lerner, M. J., & Miller, D. T. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 1030-1051.
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