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Social Justice Research

Correction to: The Organizational Underpinnings of Social Justice Theory Development

Experimental and Longitudinal Investigations of the Causal Relationship Between Belief in a Just World and Subjective Well-Being


Belief in a just world (BJW) has been assumed to promote subjective well-being. The results of cross-sectional studies have been consistent with this assumption but inconclusive about the causal origins of the correlations. Correia et al. (2009a) experimentally tested the original hypothesis (BJW causes subjective well-being) against the alternative hypothesis (subjective well-being causes BJW) and found support for both. Our Study 1 comprised four experiments that repeated and extended Correia et al.’s (2009a) experiments and fully replicated their findings. Study 2 reanalyzed a longitudinal data set regarding the interrelationships of several variants of BJW and subjective well-being. Cross-lagged panel analyses revealed very weak support for the original hypothesis and a little but not much more support for the alternative hypothesis. Taken together, the findings from both studies are consistent with Correia et al.’s (2009a) findings and suggest that the causal relationship between BJW and SWB is bidirectional in nature.

The Dark Side of Meritocratic Beliefs: Is Believing in Meritocracy Detrimental to Individuals from Low Socioeconomic Backgrounds?


Individuals’ perceptions of how the path toward success is built might affect their choices and behaviors. This study examines whether holding meritocratic beliefs has heterogeneous effects on the long-term socioeconomic outcomes of individuals from different SES. I argue that, when the hurdles faced by the less privileged groups during their educational and labor market trajectories clash with their meritocratic beliefs, the generated frustration and low self-efficacy will affect their decisions and their performance, which eventually may impact their socioeconomic outcomes. Using German longitudinal data and siblings' fixed effects, results reveal that individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds who hold strong meritocratic beliefs during their adolescence are more likely to have a precarious work situation when they are adults, as well as less likely to be fully working. This effect is reversed or non-existent for those from high socioeconomic status. These results open new paths to explore the crucial effect that societal discourses praising the meritocratic ideal could have on individuals from more deprived socioeconomic backgrounds.

Thoughts on Educational Justice: Can Poor Students be Privileged?

The Role of Structure-Seeking in Moral Punishment


Four studies (total N = 1586) test the notion that people are motivated to punish moral rule violators because punishment offers a way to obtain structure and order in the world. First, in a correlational study, increased need for structure was associated with the stronger endorsement punishment for moral rule violators. This relationship between need for structure and punishment was not driven by political conservatism. Three experimental studies then tested, and corroborated, our main causal hypotheses: that threats to structure increase punitive judgments for moral rule violators (i.e., a compensatory mechanism; Study 2) and that a lack of punishment for wrongdoing (relative to punishment for wrongdoing) makes the world seem less structured in the moment (Studies 3 and 4). We compare and contrast our structure-based account of moral punishment to other theories and findings across the punishment literature.

Procedural Justice and the Design of Administrative Dispute Resolution Procedures


Are certain characteristics of dispute resolution procedures associated with higher levels of procedural justice? We address this question through a quantitative analysis of real-world experiences of 194 professional legal representatives with the objection procedures of 81 Dutch administrative authorities. In our analysis, two general procedural characteristics are taken into account: the involvement of an independent third party and the extent to which the procedure is focused on the conciliation of competing interests. The involvement of an independent third party was not associated with higher levels of procedural justice. Procedures that were perceived to be more focused on the conciliation of competing interests were evaluated as more procedurally just, even more so in disputes where the administrative authority was perceived to have a higher degree of discretion and in disputes that ended in a negative result for the litigant.

Correction to: Confusing the Expression of Social Norms and Justice Motivation

On the Road to Justice: Some Selected Suggestions for the Future of Social Justice Research


In this paper, several aspects of social justice research are reviewed to analyze the current state of the field and to suggest refinements and new directions. The micro–macro-levels problem is discussed, including the policy of affirmative action. A canon of relevant philosophers is proposed. The strong influence of justice principles on social change research, search conferences and group interventions are demonstrated. The information value of social justice theories can be strengthened in several ways. Expanded information value implies increased effectiveness of advice and interventions. Possibilities to integrate justice criteria in total quality management are discussed. Contemporary quality management focuses on triple-P criteria: people, planet, profit, highly relevant for basic and applied justice research. The current state of the social justice discipline is rather good, but there is room for improvement. Finally, interdisciplinary research is the future, in particular for studies to solve complex societal and global problems.

Confusing the Expression of Social Norms and Justice Motivation


While I was a Russell Sage resident located in the basement of Cubberly Hall at Stanford for 2 years, I was invited, “persuaded” to design social psychology experiments on two occasions. I learned a great deal from both experiences. In one, I needed to temporarily raise or lower participants’ “self-esteem” just prior to their receiving subtle suggestions. In the other, we attempted to influence participants acceptance and use of the “Johnny Rocco” sad story. Both experiences taught me the importance of generating a compelling scenario for the participants: “good theater.” Ever since, in various ways, I have been complaining about the attempts to study the justice motive using “top of the head” methods such as simulations and role playing. Experiments using those methods could not reproduce the compelling experiences and consequences we reported in our early experiments on the justice motive and belief in a just world. More recently, I put together the work of Langer (in: Harvey, Ickes, Kidder (eds) New directions in attribution research, Erlbaum, Potomac, 1978) who compellingly described how people in the normal course of events respond automatically, thoughtlessly, in familiar encounters, and cognitive theory exploring two distinct processes: Kahneman termed them System 1 (fast) intuitive cognitions and System 2 (slow), thoughtful controlled processes. This scholarship provides insight into how context shapes justice judgments. Finally, Bazerman et al. (Curr Dir Psychol Sci 4:39–42, 1995) in a series of experiments revealed how subtle cues can lead participants to shift from Type 1 justice preferences to Type 2, more rational norm-based judgments.

Focusing on the “Social” in Social Justice Research


I describe what I see as a very strong connection between fairness perceptions and reactions that show engagement with social entities and social relationships. A brief review of studies on perceived fairness and the fair process effects illustrates how very social is the reaction to fair or unfair treatment—that is, how perceptions of fairness have a strong impact on how people view their inclusion and safety in the social group or relationship in which the treatment occurs. I suggest that this much-observed connection between fairness and group engagement raises some interesting questions about how perceived fairness affects some traditional group process phenomena. I discuss research questions that arise with respect to fairness and social identity process, fairness and obedience to authority, and fairness and conformity. Investigations of these questions, I argue, would give the field a stronger foundation in the basic social psychology of fairness and it would re-invigorate the groups aspect of social psychology as a discipline.

Some Comments on Justice and Democracy


In this brief comment, the erosion of democracy will be analyzed from a justice motive perspective. Justice motive theory can help us to better understand the underlying processes that explain why this occurs. Moreover, justice motive theory provides us with hints about what can help stop this erosive process and to strengthen democracy. A key element is people’s feeling of being treated justly by others because this strengthens their motivation to behave justly by themselves, to invest in their own future, and to avoid rule-breaking, deviant behavior. Thus, politicians should take care that citizens feel treated justly. Consequently, it is a challenge for politicians to safeguard the transparency of the information base and the trade-off leading to a specific decision. Particularly when conflicts are expected, politicians should give voice to all parties affected by the decision to increase the likelihood that a decision will be a democratic one in the true sense, a decision in the interest of all citizens affected by it.

Standing on Giants’ Shoulders: Posing Questions for Impactful Contributions and Minding “Scientific Littering”


In this special issue titled “Veteran Reflections,” renowned social justice scholars assess the current state of justice research and provide valuable guidance to the younger generation of researchers. Their responses unveil a rich tapestry of diverse perspectives, with a recurring theme emphasizing the urgent need to apply scientific knowledge to real-world contexts and expand theoretical frameworks to address evolving societal challenges. These collective reflections hold immense value for justice scholars, offering indispensable guidance on making impactful contributions to the field. They emphasize the importance of embracing interdisciplinary approaches, engaging wider audiences, and fostering an authentic curiosity in research. As the field of social justice research evolves, these profound insights will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping its trajectory and advancing the well-being of individuals and communities. Inspired by the veteran responses, we, as Editors-in-Chief of SJR, share our reflections on the vital aspect of scientific work—contribution. We introduce the concept of “scientific littering,” enumerating ten categories of non-contribution. Highlighting the pivotal role of research questions, we challenge the notion of novelty as the sole component of contribution. Ultimately, we assert that understanding and acknowledging contribution as the foundation of scientific progress, while honoring the legacy of giants in our field, foster impactful research and pave the way for groundbreaking discoveries in social justice research.

The Organizational Underpinnings of Social Justice Theory Development


Existing psychological theories about justice developed during a classic period when social justice was a core aspect of social psychology. These theories have gone on to have impact on a number of fields concerned with addressing social, political and economic issues. At the same time shifts in the field of psychology have increasingly marginalized social justice scholars, diminishing new theoretical developments. This paper identifies organizational changes that would encourage a new generation of social justice theory researchers, something made important by the increasing number and severity of the justice relevant problems arising in the world.

Fifty Years of Justice Research


Looking back on fifty years of justice research and ahead to an accelerated growth of knowledge, I collect seven signposts. Current and future scholars—and nature—will do the rest.

Advice from One Veteran


I offer advice to young scholars in the field of social justice research. The advice considers the state of our field, given its origins. My advice is based on that consideration and on my own experiences as a veteran researcher in our field.

Life is not Fair: Get Used to It! A Personal Perspective on Contemporary Social Justice Research


This paper offers a very personal perspective on the Social Justice research world, much of which is to be found in this journal. It is my contention that this research has become too inward looking and detached from other mainstream and important issues. I also highlight some areas that I think neglected such as the Problem of Evil and Stoicism as a coping mechanism for misfortune.

Can Survey Scales Affect What People Report as A Fair Income? Evidence From the Cross-National Probability-Based Online Panel CRONOS


Income redistribution is determined, to some extent, by how fair citizens judge the income distribution in their societies to be. Nonetheless, there seems to be a contradiction between what people declare as a fair income distribution, and the increase in inequalities across countries. An unexplored methodological reason for that is that survey instruments do not perfectly capture individual’s perception of income fairness, biasing results. Therefore, in this paper we use data from a Multitrait-Multimethod experiment conducted in wave 6 of the probability-based CROss-National Online Survey (CRONOS) panel in Great Britain, Estonia and Slovenia. Specifically, we explore the effect of three different scales on how fair people report an income to be, and the subsequent measurement quality of these answers. Overall, we find that survey scales do have an impact on what people report as a fair income, and the quality of these answers. Specifically, we find that the use of branching scales increases participants’ likelihood of considering an income distribution as “Fair”, while using partial-labelling and visual clues to separate (fair/unfair) dimensions increases the likelihood of considering these as “extremely unfair high/low.” In addition, our results suggest that using a 9-point fully labelled unfolding scale without visual clues yields the best measurement quality across all countries, being preferred over the other tested methods (9-point partially labelled unfolding scale with visual clues; 9-point fully labelled branching scale without visual clues).

How Endogenous System Bias Can Distort Decision-Making in Criminal Justice Systems


Most judicial, regulatory, and administrative systems, at least formally, are concerned with the fairness and transparency of their decisions concerning the public. Fairness and transparency of criminal justice operations are critical to creating trust in the legal system and assuring people that the larger social system is legitimate and worthy of support. However, deviations from objective and fair decision-making can be concealed when key actors who are responsible for deciding outcomes in their organizations are also responsible for collecting, assembling, evaluating, and presenting the information on which their decisions are based. Under these conditions such systems are at risk of what we term “endogenous system bias,” where data are acquired and altered in ways to justify desired outcomes that are neither fair nor transparent. The purpose of this paper is to: (1) develop a general model of decision-making constraints that can produce endogenous system bias, (2) review research on endogenous system bias at two key decision stages in one institution: the criminal justice system and (3) conduct an empirical examination of the potential effect of endogenous system bias on law enforcement investigations and prosecutorial charging in a sample of criminal homicide cases in the USA. Implications for law, policy, and social scientific methodology are discussed.

Childhood and Adulthood Predictors of Critical Consciousness


Critical consciousness (CC) is a multidimensional construct that describes a person’s attitudinal and behavioral orientation to structural and systemic social injustice. Although research on CC has grown in recent years, we still know relatively little about how life experience and social identity predict CC dimensions in adulthood. To help address this gap, U.S. adults (n = 360) completed an online survey regarding experiences of nurturance and adversity in childhood, discrimination and multicultural exposure in adulthood, and CC outcomes (reflection, action, sociopolitical efficacy, and militarism). Half of the sample had “structurally privileged” demographic characteristics (i.e., White, heterosexual, non-Latinx/Hispanic, not transgender, non-disabled, and mid to high socioeconomic status) while the other half had at least one “structurally marginalized” demographic characteristic. Path analyses showed that having more structurally marginalized characteristics predicted perceived discrimination and several CC outcomes, but there was also evidence of a perceived “reverse-discrimination” effect among the structurally privileged group. Further, both nurturing and adverse childhood experiences predicted multicultural experience, which in turn predicted all components of CC in both groups. These results suggest several complex developmental pathways of CC that would benefit from additional longitudinal study.

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