Challenges to worldview trigger distress and revenge

06/01/04

The September 11 terrorist attacks demonstrated, for many people, that the world is not fair. This was especially distressing for people who had previously believed in a just world. Psychologists from Michigan Statue University and the University of California, Santa Barbara suggest that it's this challenge to the view that the world is just that produced not only people's distress after September 11, but also their desire for revenge.

In a study to be published in the July issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society, Cheryl R. Kaiser, S. Brooke Vick and Brenda Major compared students' belief in a just world prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks to their distress after the attacks and their feelings about revenge.

They found that those who had a stronger belief in a just world before the terrorist attacks were more distressed by the attacks and also had more of a desire for revenge. Similarly, those who were most distressed by the attacks were also the ones who had the strongest feelings of revenge.

The results of Kaiser, Vick and Major's study suggest that the distress caused by a challenge to the worldview is what leads people to thoughts of revenge. This model of distress and desire for revenge after challenges to one's worldview could help to predict not only mental health but also political and social climate after events like September 11.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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