The role of perpetrator similarity in reactions toward innocent victims

Authors

  • Michèlle Bal,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
    • Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands.
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  • Kees van den Bos

    1. Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
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Abstract

Building and extending on just world theory, this paper studies people's negative reactions to innocent victims of rape or sexual assault. Specifically, we focus on an as yet unexplored variable that may help to explain these reactions, namely whether the perpetrator of the crime was similar or dissimilar to people who observed what happened to the victim. Perpetrator similarity refers to whether the perpetrator belongs to the personal world of the observer or not, and in accordance with predictions derived from just world theory, findings of three studies reveal that especially men take more physical distance from an innocent victim (Study 1) and blame (Study 2) and derogate (Study 3) an innocent victim more when the perpetrator is similar to them as opposed to when the perpetrator is different from them. Implications are discussed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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