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Abstract

In three studies we examined how observers making meaning of victimization by finding benefits for the victim leads to the perception that victims are morally obligated to help others and not do harm. In Experiment 1, participants perceived a victim as having greater moral obligations when the meaning of victimization was considered for the victim rather than the perpetrator. This effect on moral obligations was mediated by the extent to which participants believed victims should have found benefits. Experiments 2 and 3 examined the consequences when victims fail or fulfill their moral obligations. Greater social distance from a victim who did harm was sought when participants focused on the meaning of victimization for the victim as compared to the perpetrator. Less social distance from a victim who helped was sought when participants focused on the meaning of victimization for the victim as compared to the perpetrator or when they made no meaning. These studies show that how observers make meaning of victimization has implications for subsequent responses to victims. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.