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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Justice Motive Effects in Self-Punishment

Researchers interested in the psychology of justice have demonstrated that people need to maintain the belief that the world is basically a just, orderly, and non-random place where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.

This project aims to leverage this previous research and theorising to investigate whether concerns about personal deservingness following experiences of random misfortunes influence self-punishment.

The project will involve five experiments; the aim is to examine the key question of whether people may adopt self-punishing beliefs about themselves (ie, lowered self-esteem) and engage in self-punishing behaviours (ie, physical self-harm, self-sabotage) in order to justify their random misfortunes as deserved.

In these studies, participants will experience everyday good or bad breaks (eg, losing or winning a coin flip) and then will :

  • rate how they feel about themselves and their deservingness of positive outcomes
  • judge how willing they are to self-inflict alleged electrical stimulations
  • be given the opportunity to forego the chance to attribute potential failure during a test to mitigating circumstances.

Across the five studies, the researchers have developed experimental methods to specifically test the role that people's concerns about personal deservingness play in self-punishing beliefs and behaviours.