Free to blame? Belief in free will is related to victim blaming

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The more people believe in free will, the harsher their punishment of criminal offenders. A reason for this finding is that belief in free will leads individuals to perceive others as responsible for their behavior. While research supporting this notion has mainly focused on criminal offenders, the perspective of the victims has been neglected so far. We filled this gap and hypothesized that individuals’ belief in free will is positively correlated with victim blaming—the tendency to make victims responsible for their bad luck. In three studies, we found that the more individuals believe in free will, the more they blame victims. Study 3 revealed that belief in free will is correlated with victim blaming even when controlling for just world beliefs, religious worldviews, and political ideology. The results contribute to a more differentiated view of the role of free will beliefs and attributed intentions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103074
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.

    Research areas

  • Belief in a just world, Free will belief, Intention attribution, Political ideology, Religiosity, Responsibility, Victim blaming
  • Business psychology