Investigating a Potential Function of Belief in a Just World: Providing Purpose in Life as a Pathway to Subjective Well-Being
Rubel, Alicia N.
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According to justice motive theory, individuals have a fundamental need to believe that the world is a just place where people get what they deserve, or to have belief in a just world (BJW; Lerner, 1977, 1980). There are several reasons why individuals need BJW that have been proposed in the extant literature (Dalbert, 1999, 2001; Hafer, 2000; Lerner, 1980; Lerner & Miller, 1978; Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996). In the current research, I examine two of these functions: to encourage investment in long-term goals (Callan, Shead, & Olson, 2009; Hafer, 2000; Hafer, Bègue, Choma, & Dempsey, 2005) and to reduce fear of death (Hirschberger, 2006; Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1997). Moreover, I propose a new function of BJW—to provide individuals with a sense of purpose in life. Specifically, I argue that BJW provides a sense of purpose because, if individuals have BJW, then they can see the world as a place where their lives are both desirable and important. Further, having a sense of purpose in life should in turn improve subjective well-being (Ryff, 1989; Ryff & Keyes, 1995; Ryff, Lee, Essex, & Schmutte, 1994; Zika & Chamberlain, 1992). Therefore, purpose in life, or purpose anxiety, should mediate the association between BJW and well-being. I examined this proposal in four studies. For each study, I predicted that BJW would have an indirect association with positive affect, negative affect, and satisfaction with life, through purpose in life, or purpose anxiety, and that this association would be unique from those through other potential mediators in each model. My hypotheses were supported in each of the four studies. I discuss limitations, topics for future research, and implications for theory as well as reducing victim blame and supporting victims of trauma.