Harvey_2016.pdf (1.75 MB)
Selective exposure to deserved outcomes
journal contributionposted on 2023-08-30, 14:25 authored by Annelie J. Harvey, Mitchell J. Callan, Robbie M. Sutton, Tom Foulsham, William J. Matthews
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.
Publication titleJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
- Accepted version