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Through the looking glass: Focusing on long-term goals increases immanent justice reasoning


Correspondence should be addressed to Mitchell J. Callan, Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK (e-mail:


Immanent justice reasoning involves causally attributing a negative event to someone's prior moral failings, even when such a causal connection is physically implausible. This study examined the degree to which immanent justice represents a form of motivated reasoning in the service of satisfying the need to believe in a just world. Drawing on a manipulation that has been shown to activate justice motivation, participants causally attributed a freak accident to a man's prior immoral (vs. moral) behaviour to a greater extent when they first focused on their long-term (vs. short-term) goals. These findings highlight the important function believing in a just world plays in self-regulatory processes by implicating the self in immanent justice reasoning about fluke events in the lives of others.