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Belief in a Just World - Attitudes Towards Refugees and the Influence of Gender in Australia

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Autor:   •  September 11, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  2,217 Words (9 Pages)  •  10 Views

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‘Belief in a Just World’: Attitudes towards Refugees and the Influence of Gender in Australia

Alex Tilleray (22594337)

        PSY2042 Social Lab Report        

18th September 2015

Tutor: Laura Bell

Class: Tuesday 4-6 pm

Word Count: 1471


The relationship between Belief in a Just World (BJW) and attitudes towards refugees (ATR) with gender influence was investigated. 229 female and 70 male Australian undergraduate students completed the General Belief in a Just World Scale (GBJWS) and Illegal Immigrants Scale (IIS) to measure BJW and ATR respectively. Data was then collated and analysed using SPSS version 22. An observed value of Z (Zobs) was used for the influence of gender. The hypothesis that high BJW scores would be positively correlated with high ATR scores was supported by a small positive significant Pearson correlation. The hypothesis that there would be an influence of gender on the correlation between BJW and ATR was not supported, Zobs was non-significant. The current research validates previous research, providing evidence of the prevalence of prejudicial ATR in today’s society and highlighting the need for evaluation of current social mores and political policies.



‘Belief in a Just World”: Attitudes Towards Refugees and Gender

In today’s Australian society, attitudes towards refugees (ATR) is a prevalent issue dominating social and political policies; highlighted by the global refugee crisis (Furnham, 2003). A refugee is defined as a person outside their country of nationality who is unable to secure protection of or return to that country, owing to well-founded fears of persecution for reasons of “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (Tay et al., 2013, p. 12). Empirically robust research has identified a distinct polarisation of attitudes, either strongly positive or negative, towards refugees in Australia (Schweitzer, 2005). Salient to this issue is the personal resource of Lerner’s Belief in a Just World (BJW) (Dalbert, 2001). His theory posits the belief that, generally, individuals get what they deserve and deserve what they get (Furnham, 2003). This biased, positive outlook offers a stable, protective psychological defence against the harsh realities of a realistically unjust world, pertaining to a perceived control of personal direction (Dalbert, 2001). For instance, previous literature has reported that stronger BJW believers hold negative ATR which are expressed through victim blaming and derogation (Callan & Ellard, 2010).

Fundamentally mediating this social relationship are the prominent functional processes of realistic and symbolic threat; subjectively perceived threats posed between in-groups and out-groups regarding safety, economy, politics, health or well-being and group differences in morals, values, beliefs and attitudes (Islam & Hewstone, 1993). Previous research and empirical evidence has found significant correlations between both threat types in influencing the development and expression of prejudicial attitudes (Sears & Henry, 2003). North American and Australian research has continually supported these findings, further identifying both threat types as integral in understanding ATR and their dehumanisation in order to maintain BJW (Sears & Henry, 2003; Schweitzer, 2005). The influential role of BJW in conscious social decisions and unconscious emotional reactions is predominantly expressed through victim derogation (Furnham, 2003). Salient literature reports that victim derogation is motivated by refugee self-infliction, minimising refugees’ needs and therefore justifying their own advantages (DeVaul Fetters, 2014).

This supports the idea that BJW manifests as a healthy coping mechanism aiding justification of adverse health effects and promoting better subjective well-being (Otto et al., 2006). Behavioural outcome functions are exhibited as perceived control over possible victimisation, further validating motivations for continual BJW as a personal coping strategy. This consensual view of reality causes negative social outcomes (Callan & Ellard, 2010). Research has demonstrated negative attitudes are related to gender and education modalities; gender being predominant (Schweitzer, 2005). Widespread research has demonstrated that males consistently report more negative ATR compared with females, with Australian white uneducated males reporting ethnocentric attitudes (Schweitzer, 2005). Cross-cultural research has found that females with higher levels of education possess more positive ATR (Crowell, 2000; Curry, 2000). Thus, demographic analysis is essential.

Measurement validity and reliability has been a limitation in previous research carried out on BJW and ATR (Furnham, 2003). The current study uses empirically robust, culturally comparative measures, with strong internal reliability and concurrent validity, to accurately measure BJW and attitudes and perceptions towards refugees (Ommundsen et al., 2002). Replicating previous research is essential to establishing well-founded empirically robust data which, in turn, can be generalizable to broader society. A limitation also exists in exploring the attitudes of younger, educated individuals who have developed within modern society, for example, university students (Brown, 2013). Considering Australia’s growing multicultural society, valid applicable data is integral to educating new generations and developing scientifically accurate social and political policies. 

The aim of the current study was to investigate the relationship between BJW and ATR with gender comparison in an Australian sample of undergraduate students. It was hypothesised that high BJW scores (GBJWS) would be positively correlated with high ATR scores (IIS). It was hypothesised that there would be an influence of gender (Zobs) on the correlation between BJW and ATR.



The participants were 229 female and 70 male PSY2042 psychology undergraduates from all Monash campuses. Mean age was 21.54 years (SD = 4.921), data was collected via convenience sampling.


A correlational between-subjects design investigated the relationship between BJW and ATR in male and female undergraduate psychology students. Due to the correlational investigation no causal relationship was inferred. No manipulation of variables occurred. A Pearson correlation and Zobs was used to analyse the data.


The demographics, age, gender and Australian heritage status, were collected first. Ommundsen & Larsen’s (1999) 20-item Illegal Immigrant Scale (IIS) was used to measure participants’ ATR. Participants rated each item on a 5-point Likert-type scale with high scores specifying negative ATR. Dalbert & Yamauchi’s (1994) 6-item General Belief in a Just World Scale (GBJWS) was used to measure participants’ BJW. Participants rated each item on a 6-point Likert-type scale with high scores specifying stronger BJW.


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