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The relation between belief in a just world and early processing of deserved and undeserved outcomes: An ERP study.

Authors
  • Hafer, Carolyn L1
  • Weissflog, Meghan1
  • Drolet, Caroline E1
  • Segalowitz, Sidney J1
  • 1 Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada. , (Canada)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Social Neuroscience
Publisher
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2022
Volume
17
Issue
2
Pages
95–116
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2022.2038262
PMID: 35125043
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine how quickly people in general, and certain people in particular, process deservingness-relevant information. Female university students completed individual difference measures, including individual differences in the belief in a just world (BJW), a belief that people get what they deserve. They then read stories in which an outcome was deserved, undeserved, or neither deserved nor undeserved (i.e., "neutral") while their ERPs were recorded with scalp electrodes. We found no overall differentiation between early ERP responses (<300 ms post-stimulus onset) to deserved, undeserved, and neutral outcomes. However, BJW correlated with the difference between early ERP responses to these forms of information (rs from |.44| to |.61|; ps from .018 to < .001). The early nature of our effects (e.g., 96 ms after stimulus onset) suggests individual differences in socially-relevant information processing that begins before conscious evaluation of the stimuli. Potential underlying processes include automatic attention to schema-relevant information and to unexpected (and therefore salient) information and automatic processing of belief-consistent information. Our research underscores the importance of the concept of deservingness in human information processing as well as the utility of ERP technology and robust statistical analyses in investigations of complex social stimuli.

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