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Selective exposure to deserved outcomes

Harvey, Annelie J., Callan, Mitch J., Sutton, Robbie M., Foulsham, Tom, Matthews, William J. (2016) Selective exposure to deserved outcomes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69 . pp. 33-43. ISSN 0022-1031. (doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2016.10.001) (KAR id:57818)

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Research has shown that people often reinterpret their experiences of others' harm and suffering to maintain the functional belief that people get what they deserve (e.g., by blaming the victim). Rather than focusing on such reactive responses to harm and suffering, across 7 studies we examined whether people selectively and proactively choose to be exposed to information about deserved rather than undeserved outcomes. We consistently found that participants selectively chose to learn that bad (good) things happened to bad (good) people (Studies 1 to 7)—that is, they selectively exposed themselves to deserved outcomes. This effect was mediated by the perceived deservingness of outcomes (Studies 2 and 3), and was reduced when participants learned that wrongdoers otherwise received “just deserts” for their transgressions (Study 7). Participants were not simply selectively avoiding information about undeserved outcomes but actively sought information about deserved outcomes (Studies 3 and 4), and participants invested effort in this pattern of selective exposure, seeking out information about deserved outcomes even when it was more time-consuming to find than undeserved outcomes (Studies 5 and 6). Taken together, these findings cast light on a more proactive, anticipatory means by which people maintain a commitment to deservingness.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.jesp.2016.10.001
Uncontrolled keywords: information seeking, selective exposure, deservingness, belief in a just world
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Robbie Sutton
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2016 13:56 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sutton, Robbie M.:
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