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Measuring Victimhood: Developing a Victim Self-Ascription Scale
Unformatted Document Text:  DRAFT – For permission to cite contact Andy Davies on ## email not listed ## control in similar future situations as in Janoff-Bulman's formulation, but rather whether they feel their actions at the time were justified. Justice motive theorists have made a similar argument to this, arguing in relation to the Janoff-Bulman thesis that the real difference between characterological and behavioral self-blame was not whether either conferred a sense of control, but was instead whether they implied the individual responsible was a morally worthy person. Lerner & Miller (1978) suggested that characterological attributions led much more directly to the implication that an individual was fundamentally unworthy and deserved their negative fate than did behavioral attributions, and that it was this that was at the root of their negative reactions to them rather than the question of the controllability of future outcomes. At least in terms of internally directed anger, the two subjects cited above seem to exemplify the two alternative possibilities that such a mechanism would produce – of one individual angrily condemning their unworthy action, and the other reflecting that the worthiness was what made it acceptable. The measure of perceived injustice in this study did not address specifically the question of whether a participant felt that they had behaved ‘justifiably’ or reasonably in the lead up to the incident. Instead, it simply measured a global assessment of the event as a whole – whether it was considered fair and just or not. The only firm conclusions this grants us is that justice considerations are key predictors in experiences of victimhood among individuals. When juxtaposed with the findings on external attribution, however, it might further be reasonable to say that the focus in studying the experience of victimhood ought not to be on whether an event was considered to have been caused by forces external to the victim or not, but rather on how much the victim was harmed and whether the event as a whole manifested principles of justice, bearing the actions of the victim (and presumably others) in mind. Page 25

Authors: Davies, Andrew.
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DRAFT – For permission to cite contact Andy Davies on ## email not listed ##
control in similar future situations as in Janoff-Bulman's formulation, but rather whether they feel their 
actions at the time were justified.
Justice motive theorists have made a similar argument to this, arguing in relation to the Janoff-Bulman 
thesis that the real difference between characterological and behavioral self-blame was not whether 
either conferred a sense of control, but was instead whether they implied the individual responsible was 
a morally worthy person.  Lerner & Miller (1978) suggested that characterological attributions led 
much more directly to the implication that an individual was fundamentally unworthy and deserved 
their negative fate than did behavioral attributions, and that it was this that was at the root of their 
negative reactions to them rather than the question of the controllability of future outcomes.  At least in 
terms of internally directed anger, the two subjects cited above seem to exemplify the two alternative 
possibilities that such a mechanism would produce – of one individual angrily condemning their 
unworthy action, and the other reflecting that the worthiness was what made it acceptable.
The measure of perceived injustice in this study did not address specifically the question of whether a 
participant felt that they had behaved ‘justifiably’ or reasonably in the lead up to the incident.  Instead, 
it simply measured a global assessment of the event as a whole – whether it was considered fair and 
just or not.  The only firm conclusions this grants us is that justice considerations are key predictors in 
experiences of victimhood among individuals.  When juxtaposed with the findings on external 
attribution, however, it might further be reasonable to say that the focus in studying the experience of 
victimhood ought not to be on whether an event was considered to have been caused by forces external 
to the victim or not, but rather on how much the victim was harmed and whether the event as a whole 
manifested principles of justice, bearing the actions of the victim (and presumably others) in mind.
Page 25


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