Carolyn Hafer

Professor, Ph.D. (Western)

Carolyn Hafer, Psychology, Brock University

Office: MC B306
905 688-5550 x4297

Social Psychology

  • just world hypothesis
  • distributive and procedural justice
  • social action
  • scope of justice

My primary research area is the social psychology of justice. I am particularly interested in the concept of the need to believe in a just world (i.e., a world where people get what they deserve). Previous research has examined the implications of this belief for observers’ reactions to innocent victims.

I have expanded on this work in several ways. First, I have investigated how the belief in a just world affects perceptions of and responses to one’s own misfortune rather than the misfortune of others. Second, I have investigated the function that this belief might play in daily life. I have also tried to show evidence that it is specifically the injustice of innocent suffering that leads to defensive responses to innocent victims (and not, for example, simply the presence of negative outcomes). Most recently, I have examined defensive responses to innocent suffering other than the typically studied victim blame and derogation, as well as the predictors of these alternative responses.

I have also done some recent work on the notion of “scope of justice”, or the boundary within which justice is seen as applicable. For example, my colleagues and I have shown evidence for a curvilinear relation, rather than the presumed linear relation, between one’s connection (e.g. perceived similarity to) a target and the extent to which one believes justice to be important when making decisions affecting the target.

Choma, B., Hafer, C.L., Crosby, F.J., & Foster, M.D. (in press). Perceptions of personal sex discrimination: The role of belief in a just world and situational ambiguity. Journal of Social Psychology.

Hafer, C.L., Conway, P., Cheung, I., Malyk, D., & Olson, J.M. (in press). The relation between people’s connection with a target and the perceived importance of justice. Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

Hafer, C.L. (2011). The psychology of deservingness and acceptance of human rights. In E. Kals & J. Maes (Eds.), Justice and conflicts: Theoretical and empirical contributions (pp. 407-428). New York: Springer.

Olson, J.M., Cheung, I., Conway, P., Hutchison, J. & Hafer, C.L. (2011). Distinguishing two meanings of moral exclusion: Exclusion from moral principles or principled harm-doing? Social Justice Research, 24, 365-390.

Hafer, C.L., & Gosse, L. (2011). Predicting alternative strategies for preserving a belief in a just world: The case of repressive coping style. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 730-739.

Gaucher, D., Hafer, C. L., Kay, A. C., & Davidenko, N. (2010). Compensatory rationalizations and the resolution of everyday undeserved outcomes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin36, 109-118.

Hafer, C. L., & Gosse, L. (2010). Preserving the belief in a just world: When and for whom are different strategies preferred?. In D. R. Bobocel, A. C. Kay, M. P. Zanna, & J. M. Olson (Eds.), The psychology of justice and legitimacy: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 11, pp. 79-102). New York: Psychology Press.

Olson, J. M., Hafer, C. L., Cheung, I., & Conway, P. (2010). Deservingness, the scope of justice, and actions toward others. In D. R. Bobocel, A. C. Kay, M. P. Zanna, & J. M. Olson (Eds.), The psychology of justice and legitimacy: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 11, pp. 125-149). New York: Psychology Press.

Hafer, C.L., & Choma, B.L. (2009). Belief in a just world, perceived fairness, and justification of the status quo. In J. Jost, A.C. Kay, & H. Thorisdottir (Eds.), Social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification (pp. 107-125). New York: Oxford University Press.

Bogaert, A.F., & Hafer, C.L. (2009). Predicting the timing of coming out in gay and bisexual men from world beliefs, physical attractiveness, and childhood gender identity/role. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39, 1991-2019.

Hafer, C. L., Olson, J. M., & Peterson, A. A. (2008). Extreme harmdoing: A view from the social psychology of justice. In V. M. Esses & R. A. Vernon (Eds.). Explaining the breakdown of ethnic relations: Why neighbours kill (pp. 17-40).  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Hafer, C. L., Bègue, L., Choma, B. L., & Dempsey, J. L. (2005). Belief in a just world and commitment to long-term deserved outcomes. Social Justice Research, 18, 429-444.

Hafer, C. L., & Bègue, L. (2005). Experimental research on just-world theory: Problems, developments, and future challengesPsychological Bulletin, 131, 128-167.

Hafer, C. L., & Olson, J. M. (2003). An analysis of empirical research on the scope of justice.  Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7, 311-323.