The Role of Political Ideology in Mediating Judgments of Blame in Rape Victims and Their Assailants: A Test of the Just World, Personal Responsibility, and Legitimization Hypotheses Alan J. Lambert Washington University Katherine Raichle University of Iowa guided by judgments of personal blame (Carroll, 1979; Hogarth, 1971). The extent to which people blame victims of rape represents one of the most commonly studied topics in this literature. There are several reasons why this might be so. For one thing, recent studies suggest that rape is one of the most prevalent sources of interpersonal violence in American society (Koss, Dinero, Seibel, & Cox, 1988). From a psychological standpoint, one of the most disturbing aspects of sexual assault is that people often tend to blame the victims of rape. Such effects have been replicated many times with both college undergraduates as well as with noncollege samples and have been observed not only in the United States but also in other countries (e.g., Acock & Ireland, 1983; McCaul, Veltum, Boyechko, & Crawford, 1990). A plethora of research suggests that there are important individual differences in how people assign blame in cases of rape. In other words, even when presented with the identical facts, perceivers often draw very different inferences about victims, depending on the participants’ a priori position with respect to relevant personality variables (Anderson, Cooper, & Okamura, 1997).

Previous research often has shown that conservative ideology is positively correlated with the extent to which people blame victims of rape. However, much of this work has been descriptive, with little attention directed toward the development of theoretical models addressing why conservatism might play an important role in this area. Three hypotheses were tested. The just world hypothesis suggests that people blame others to preserve one’s view that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. The personal responsibility hypothesis suggests that conservatism is associated with a tendency to hold people personally responsible for their own actions. The legitimization hypothesis stipulates that conservative perceivers are motivated to maintain traditional power differences between dominant and nondominant groups. Two studies showed much more support for the legitimization hypothesis compared to the other hypotheses. The implications of the present results for previous investigations of victim blaming are discussed.

Researchers from a variety of domains (e.g., social psy-

chology, health, law) have long sought to understand the processes by which people form inferences of blame. From a social psychological standpoint, perceptions of blame play an important role in how we make sense of what happens to others and the self (Shaver, 1985). Inferences of blame also can have important implications for how people are able to establish a sense of control, especially when facing potentially dangerous outcomes, such as physical attacks or disease (JanoffBulman, Timko, & Carli, 1985). Finally, such judgments play an important role in the legal domain, because verdicts of guilt and the severity of punishment often are

Authors’ Note: Study 1 was based on an undergraduate honors thesis by Katherine Raichle under the direction of Alan J. Lambert. Appreciation is expressed to Kim Lonsway, Jeremy Manier, Scott Madey, and Suzanne Swann for their excellent comments on earlier drafts. Correspondence should be addressed to Alan J. Lambert, Department of Psychology, 1 Brookings Drive, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130; e-mail: [email protected]. PSPB, Vol. 26 No. 7, July 2000 853-863 © 2000 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.




Although the individual difference approach has been fairly popular, many studies have taken a largely descriptive approach (i.e., reporting reliable correlations between various personality variables and judgments of blame). In contrast, far fewer have systematically tested theoretical models of why certain personality variables are related to perceptions of rape. UNRESOLVED ISSUES REGARDING THE ROLE OF CONSERVATIVE IDEOLOGY IN PERCEPTIONS OF RAPE VICTIMS AND THEIR ASSAILANTS

One implication arising from the rape literature is that people who endorse politically conservative views are more punitive toward victims of rape compared to people who do not endorse such beliefs (for a review, see Anderson et al., 1997). One problem with many of these studies, however, is that the measures used to predict reactions toward rape victims are, in themselves, measures of rape-related attitudes and/or sexual conservatism. For example, several studies operationalize conventional beliefs in terms of traditional views about rape or sex (i.e., rape myths) and have used such beliefs to predict how people react to specific cases of rape (e.g., Acock & Ireland, 1983; Burt, 1980; Deitz, Littman, & Bentley, 1984; Jenkins & Dambrot, 1987; Linz, Donnerstein, & Penrod, 1988; Lonsway, 1994). As Lonsway and Fitzgerald (1994) have noted, however, such findings might best be regarded as validations of rape myth scales rather than providing additional insight into the role of general conservative ideology in mediating reactions to rape. Once one excludes from consideration research that operationalizes conservatism in ways that are explicitly linked to rape, sex, and/or gender-role orientation, there are few, if any, studies showing a link between general conservatism and reactions to rape. Thus, the extent to which individual differences in general aspects of conservatism (i.e., using personality instruments that do not refer to sexual issues in any way) mediate blaming in cases of rape is poorly understood.

Just World Hypothesis One of the most well-known principles in social psychology is the tendency for people to believe in a just world, that is, the notion that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get (Lerner, 1965, 1980; Lerner & Miller, 1978). In recent years, researchers have shown increasing interest in operationalizing just world beliefs as an individual difference variable. Particularly important is the fact that people who believe in a just world tend to score higher with respect to at least some types of conservatism (Anderson et al., 1997; Furnham & Procter, 1989). The notion that just world beliefs play a causal role in mediating victim blaming is stated as fact in many introductory textbooks in social psychology. One might imagine, therefore, that there is a vast literature showing that individual differences in just world beliefs are reliable predictors of blaming judgments in cases of rape. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not the case. Although there is some evidence that individual differences in just world beliefs are positively correlated with victim blaming in domains other than rape (Rubin & Peplau, 1975), the rape literature yields a very murky picture. For example, some research (e.g., Kleinke & Meyer, 1990) has shown that women scoring high in just world beliefs have more favorable reactions to rape victims, which seems opposite to what just world theory would predict. Still other research has shown that women tended to see themselves as dissimilar to the target regardless of just world beliefs, which is again inconsistent with the basic theory (e.g., Drout & Gaertner, 1994). The picture emerging for male observers is similarly confusing, with some research showing positive relations between just world beliefs and victim blaming, other research showing negative relations, and still other research showing no relation between just world beliefs and victim blaming at all (Drout & Gaertner, 1994; Gilmartin-Zena, 1987; Kleinke & Meyer, 1990). Thus, support for the notion that just world beliefs could predict reactions to rape victims and/or their assailants is, at best, mixed. Personal Responsibility Hypothesis


In the space below, we consider three viable explanations for why conservative ideology might be related in predictable ways to perceptions of rape. Although we derived these hypotheses in part from the implications of previous research, we are not aware of any study in the literature that has offered a definitive test of all three accounts in the same design.

Research has shown that conservative perceivers respond in a more punitive fashion toward persons who violate traditional norms (norm breakers) compared to nonconservative perceivers (Carroll, Perkowitz, Lurigo, & Weaver, 1987; Skitka & Tetlock, 1993). One explanation for this response tendency is that when faced with an example of wrong-doing or other malfeasance, conservatives are more likely than liberals to hold that person personally responsible for his or her own actions/outcomes. This conclusion has received some support across several different experimental settings (e.g.,

Lambert, Raichle / IDEOLOGY AND BLAME Carroll et al., 1987; Feather, 1985; Skitka & Tetlock, 1993; Zucker & Weiner, 1993). It seems reasonable to surmise, therefore, that the tendency for conservative perceivers to blame victims of rape might be a direct or indirect manifestation of this judgmental style.1 A critical prediction of this hypothesis is that conservative perceivers should show a tendency to attribute greater blame to both the male as well as the female target. In other words, conservatives should be more likely to blame the rapist for his actions, and the woman for her actions, compared to nonconservative individuals. However, we are not aware of any study in the literature that has directly tested the merits of these dual predictions in the same design. Legitimization Hypothesis According to a third hypothesis, conservatism might be associated with a tendency to react to rape in ways that justifies the behavior of the male assailant toward the woman. This hypothesis derives from a class of theories (e.g., group positions model, social dominance theory) that suggest that politically conservative individuals are more likely to legitimize existing hierarchical relations between dominant and nondominant groups (e.g., Blumer, 1961; Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996; Smith, 1981). As for incidents of rape, many theorists do not define rape merely as a sexual act but argue that rape represents, in a literal as well as symbolic sense, an attempt of men to establish power and domination over women (e.g., Brownmiller, 1975; Burt, 1991; Lonsway & Fitzgerald, 1994). If this is true, and if conservative individuals are more motivated to preserve the hierarchical relation between dominant versus nondominant groups, then politically conservative individuals should be more likely to react to rape in ways that blame the victim and absolve the assailant of wrongdoing. Note that unlike the personal responsibility hypothesis, the legitimization hypothesis suggests that conservative observers should be less, not more, likely to blame assailants compared to nonconservative observers. Hence, this hypothesis predicts that conservatism would be positively correlated with blaming of the female victim but negatively correlated with the male assailant.2 STUDY 1

Study 1 was designed as an initial test of the three hypotheses presented above. Male and female participants first completed a questionnaire in which we measured individual differences in general political ideology as well as just world beliefs. Following this, they were presented with a date rape scenario that was similar to that employed by Lonsway (1994). The primary dependent variable concerned attributions of blame of the female victim as well as the male assailant.


The personal responsibility hypothesis suggests that individual differences in conservatism should be positively correlated with blame, regardless of whether participants are judging the male or the female target. However, the legitimization hypothesis predicts that conservatism should be positively correlated with judgments of the female but negatively correlated with judgments of the male. The just world hypothesis suggests that after partialing out differences in general conservatism, just world beliefs should be positively correlated with judgments of blame of the female victim. (This latter hypothesis makes no clear prediction for the male assailant.)3 Participants’ own gender could influence judgments of blame in two ways. First, in light of research on ingroup favoritism effects (Tajfel, 1978), female participants might tend to blame the female victim less than would male participants, whereas this difference might be reversed when judging the male assailant. Note that this effect need not involve differences in conservatism but rather is based on the notion that shared membership in a salient category is a sufficient condition for ingroup favoritism effects (Tajfel, 1978). Second, gender could moderate the relationship between the individual difference variables and judgments of blame such that the strength of these relationships might depend on whether participants are male or female. We had no strong a priori predictions as to whether the effects of any of the individual difference variables would be stronger among male versus female participants; for this reason, this aspect of our research was exploratory. METHOD

Participants Participants included a total of 57 undergraduate psychology students (27 men and 30 women) who participated in return for U.S.$6 or partial fulfillment of course credit. Administration of Personality Inventory Participants completed a series of personality questionnaires in the context of a large mass-testing session held 2 months prior to the main study. In one part of the packet, participants were asked to rate how conservative they considered themselves to be along a scale ranging from 0 (not at all conservative) to 10 (extremely conservative). Participants also rated themselves with respect to liberalism along a scale ranging from 0 (not at all liberal) to 10 (extremely liberal). Responses to these two items were significantly correlated with one another (r = –.55, p < .01), indicating that participants who rated themselves high in conservatism tended to rate themselves as low in liberalism, and vice versa. The main analyses were based



on an average of participants’ rating of conservatism and their ratings of liberalism (after reverse-coding their response to the latter scale), with higher numbers indicating higher conservatism and lower liberalism. Paralleling previous findings obtained in the literature (cf. Sidanius et al., 1996), analyses indicated that men scored higher in conservatism than did women (Ms = 4.31 vs. 2.78), F(1, 55) = 11.36, p < .05. Belief in a just world was measured using an 18-item instrument derived from recent work reported by Dalbert and Lipkus (Dalbert & Yamauchi, 1994; Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996), a scale that we have used successfully in our own work (Lambert, Burroughs, & Nguyen, in press). In it, participants are asked to express their agreement or disagreement with each statement (e.g., “Overall, events in my life are just”; “In general, I think that there is justice in the world”) along a scale ranging from 6 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree). This measure had good levels of internal reliability (α = .81). Just world beliefs were positively correlated, albeit very modestly, with the conservatism index (r = .19, ns). Just world beliefs were not contingent on participant gender (p > .15). Target Judgment Phase Two months following their participation in the initial survey, participants were contacted to participate in an ostensibly unrelated study by an experimenter different from the person who administered the initial battery of questionnaires. After arriving in the laboratory, participants were given the following preliminary instructions: The general purpose of this study is to understand how people react to information about those who had dating and/or sexual encounters with others. In particular, we will be presenting you with a written scenario about two persons named Donna and Bill. Please read this information very carefully. Afterward, we will be asking you for your thoughts and impressions about what you read.

Participants were told that none of the materials that they would be reading would be sexually explicit. Participants also were informed that if they did not wish to participate in this study, they would be able to complete an alternate packet of materials unrelated to sexual issues. However, none of the participants elected to take this option. Stimulus Materials The date rape scenario was adapted from a set of materials developed by Lonsway (1994) and read as follows: It was Friday after midterms and some students were having a big party at their apartment. It had been a tough

week of tests and everyone seemed ready to blow off some steam. Donna and Bill both went to the party and both lived close enough so that they walked over. Both Donna and Bill knew most of the people there but they had only met each other a few times before. The two were attracted to each other, so when they noticed each other at the party, they made up an excuse to start up a conversation. It turned out that they had a lot in common and had fun talking. They had both grown up in Chicago and joked about their lives there and life in St. Louis. By that time, the party was getting pretty loud and crowded, so when Bill asked Donna if she wanted to go somewhere quieter to talk, it seemed like a good idea to her. After all, they had been having a good time together. She told him she lived right around the corner and they could go back there for a while if they wanted. He said that sounded good, so they left the party. When Bill and Donna got to her apartment, her roommate hadn’t yet returned from her night out, so the two got a couple of beers out of the fridge and sat on the couch talking. They seemed to be getting along great and when Bill asked Donna if he could kiss her, she said “yes” and moved closer to him. Things started to get passionate and Donna was afraid her roommate would be home soon, so the two moved into her bedroom. Pretty soon they didn’t have any clothes on, but when they seemed close to having intercourse Donna pulled away and said she didn’t want to go all the way. Bill insisted, saying they were too far into it to stop, but she told him again she didn’t want to. Donna pleaded continuously that she did not want to have sex, even after they had started. After a while, Donna didn’t say anything else and they finished having sex. When it was over, Donna turned away from Bill in bed and he assumed that she fell asleep. He put on his clothes and left.

Assessment of Dependent Variables Participants were then given a series of questions/items that measured their perceptions of the victim and assailant. The order of the judgments was counterbalanced such that half the participants judged the victim (Donna) first followed by the assailant (Bill), whereas this order was reversed for the other participants. None of the results to be reported in this study or in Study 2 were contingent on this counterbalancing; thus, results are collapsed over this variable. Perceptions of blame were assessed on the basis of the following two questions: (a) “In general, how much do you think Donna (Bill) is to blame for what happened?” and (b) “To what extent do you believe that Donna (Bill) is responsible for what happened?” In both cases, participants were provided with a scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 10 (very much). Responses to these two questions were highly correlated with one another, and this was true regardless of whether participants were assessing the blame of the women (r = .88) or the men (r = .75), both ps < .001. A composite judgment of blame was thus

Lambert, Raichle / IDEOLOGY AND BLAME based on an average of participants’ responses to these questions. Participants also were asked to rate general likeableness of the targets and rated them with respect to several different kinds of traits (e.g., aggressive, confident, immature, unintelligent, stubborn, honest). However, analyses of these ratings revealed few if any significant results across the two studies reported in this article, and none of these effects were relevant to the hypotheses to be tested. This supported our assumption that conservatism would be most specifically related to perceptions of blame per se. Therefore, in the results to be reported, we focus on judgments of blame and their relation to the various individual difference variables under scrutiny. After completing the end of this packet, participants were given a complete debriefing, which included the name and phone numbers of an on-campus rape crisis hotline. RESULTS

Preliminary Analyses Overall, all participants accorded far more blame to the male assailant compared to the female victim (Ms = 9.10 vs. 3.77). However, further analyses revealed evidence of an ingroup favoritism effect. In particular, female participants blamed the male assailant more than did male participants (Ms = 9.57 vs. 8.54), whereas this difference was reversed for the female target (Ms = 3.15 vs. 4.54), F(1, 60) = 6.73, p < .01, for the Participant Gender × Target Gender interaction. Correlational Analyses Consistent with the legitimization hypothesis, initial analyses revealed that conservatism was significantly related in diametrically opposite ways to judgments of the male versus female target. When judging the female victim, conservatism was positively correlated with blame (r = .41, p < .01), but conservatism was negatively correlated with judgments of the male assailant (r = –.35, p < .01). Thus, participants tended to blame the victim more if they scored high in conservatism, whereas the reverse relationship obtained when participants judged the assailant. This pattern is not consistent with the personal responsibility hypothesis, which suggests that conservatism would be positively correlated with perceptions of blame for both targets. Just world beliefs had no effect (all ps > .20), and this was true regardless of whether participants judged the male or female target. Hierarchical Regression Analyses To probe more formally the independent and/or interactive effects of the three predictor variables (conservatism, just world beliefs, and participant gender) on


judgments of the two targets, judgments of these targets were analyzed via two independent sets of hierarchical regression analyses in which the relevant main effects (conservatism, just world beliefs, and participants gender) were entered first followed by interactions of these variables with participant gender. Judgments of the male target. Analyses revealed a tendency for conservatism to be negatively related to judgments of blame (β = –.23, p = .09). This pattern was not appreciably different for male versus female participants (rs = –.27 and –.13, respectively), a fact that was reflected in the absence of a Participant Gender × Conservatism interaction (p > .20). There was a main effect for gender (β = .27, p < .05), which reflected the fact that female participants blamed the male target more than did female participants. Judgments of the female target. Analyses of the female target revealed only one effect: a main effect for conservatism (β = .35, p < .01), reflecting the tendency for participants to blame the woman more if they scored high in conservatism than if they did not. This effect was not contingent on gender (p > .25 for the Participant Gender × Conservatism interaction), as seen in the similar relationship that arose for both male (r = .27) as well as female participants (r = .44). Neither participant gender nor just world beliefs exerted any effects, either in their own right or in combination with other variables. Supplemental Analyses Although conservatism and liberalism are often negatively correlated, some researchers have argued that it is useful to regard these variables as conceptually distinct (albeit not entirely unrelated) constructs (e.g., Conover & Feldman, 1981; Katz & Hass, 1988; Kerlinger, 1984; Lambert & Chasteen, 1997; but see Green, 1988). This perspective suggests an alternative analytic strategy in which self-defined conservatism and liberalism are treated as distinct variables in their own right. On one hand, inspection of the zero-order correlations revealed that conservatism was negatively correlated with blaming of the male assailant (r = –.31) and positively correlated with the female victim (r = .38). In contrast, the opposite pattern emerged for liberalism (rs = .33 vs. –.34 for the male vs. female target, respectively). (All of these correlations are significant, ps < .05.) However, when conservatism and liberalism were entered simultaneously in regression analyses, none of the beta coefficients were significant (all ps > .10). These null findings are, in all likelihood, due to the fact that simultaneous entry of these two highly correlated variables in the regression analyses meant that relatively little unique variance in conservatism was left over once liberalism was taken into account, and vice versa. Thus, at least in



this study, the relation between conservatism and judgments of blame appeared to be capturing processes that were quite similar to those being captured by the relation between liberalism and blame. Be that as it may, the more important implication of these data is that they show considerably more support for the legitimization hypothesis compared to the personal responsibility or just world hypotheses.4 DISCUSSION

Consistent with the legitimization hypothesis, participants who defined themselves as high in conservatism (and low in liberalism) tended to blame the female victim more, and the male assailant less, compared to participants who defined themselves in less conservative (more liberal) terms. It also should be noted that, in general, blaming judgments were more consistently predicted by individual differences in ideology than by participant gender per se. Furthermore, the relation between ideology and judgments of blame was generally the same, regardless of whether participants were male or female. We found this latter effect to be especially provocative because it suggests that ideology had an effect above and beyond any vested interest than might have arisen from judging same-sex versus opposite-sex targets. One of the goals of Study 2 was to see if this effect would replicate with a different operationalization of individual difference measures and with a much larger sample than was used in Study 1. STUDY 2

According to our view, the relationship between ideology and blaming obtained in Study 1 may have been due to the tendency for certain kinds of perceivers to justify the existence of traditional power relations in society. If this interpretation is correct, then it should be the case that directly measuring individual differences with respect to this motivation should strongly predict blaming judgments in our paradigm. For this reason, in Study 2 we assessed individual differences in social dominance orientation (SDO) (Sidanius et al., 1996), which was explicitly designed to measure the extent to which participants are motivated to maintain or eliminate hierarchical relations between dominant and nondominant groups, of which the relation between men and women in society is one example. (It is important to note, however, that the items in the scale itself do not refer to gender issues or men or women in particular.) If the legitimization hypothesis has merit, therefore, one should expect that SDO should be positively correlated with blaming of the female target but negatively correlated with blaming of the male target.

On theoretical grounds, one should expect that SDO would be positively correlated with certain types of conservative beliefs/attitudes (and negatively correlated with liberal beliefs/attitudes); indeed, such relations often have been reported in the literature (e.g., Sidanius et al., 1996). It should be emphasized, however, that Sidanius et al. (1996) do not regard SDO as conceptually synonymous with political attitudes. In particular, SDO might better be characterized as a value (Rokeach, 1973) regarding people’s views regarding the merits of equality-based societies, which can be correlated with, but are not the same as, people’s political attitudes or beliefs. For our purposes, however, it was not particularly important whether one prefers to label SDO as an example of a value as opposed to a particular type of conservative or liberal ideology per se. Rather, the most important point is that the legitimization hypothesis predicts that blaming judgments in our paradigm should be strongly predicted by SDO, a measure that reliably assesses individual differences in people’s motivation to justify hierarchical relations in society. Aside from the SDO scale, we administered three additional classes of measures in this study. Although Study 1 gave little indication that just world beliefs play an important role in this domain, we thought it prudent to subject this hypothesis to another test. In this study, we continued to use the same measure of just world beliefs as was employed in Study 1 but we also had our participants complete the Rubin and Peplau (1975) just world scale to provide maximum leverage in testing the merits of this hypothesis. Participants also were presented with the Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) scale (Katz & Hass, 1988). The PWE scale represents an extremely popular measure of conservatism and, more important for present purposes, taps an aspect of conservatism that theorists have argued is directly related to the tendency to hold others as personally responsible for their actions and/or outcomes (Carroll et al. 1987). Use of this scale thus provided us with additional leverage in testing the validity of the legitimization versus personal responsibility hypotheses. In particular, given the results of Study 1, we predicted that the SDO scale (which is more closely attuned toward legitimization of dominance than the PWE scale) would predict blaming judgments to a superior extent than would the PWE scale. On the other hand, if the personal responsibility hypothesis has merit, then the PWE scale also should predict judgments of blame, even after partialing out SDO. Finally, participants also expressed their overall attitude toward conservatives and liberals. Although this technique of measuring ideology is relatively simple, research by Conover and Feldman (1981) suggests that such measures provide one of the most effective ways of

Lambert, Raichle / IDEOLOGY AND BLAME TABLE 1:


Correlations Among and Internal Reliabilities of Individual Difference Variables: Study 2 (N = 139)

1. Social Dominance Orientation 2. Protestant Work Ethic 3. Just World Scale (Dalbert & Yamauchi, 1994; Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996) 4. Just World Scale (Rubin & Peplau, 1975) 5. Attitude toward liberals 6. Attitude toward conservatives 7. Participant gender (1 = male, 2 = female)



(.92) .22**


–.15 .10 –.34** .21* –.21**

.14 .21** –.24** .06 .11






(.84) .49** .02 .08 .01

(.62) .08 .25** –.13

— –.20* .13

— –.07

NOTE: Internal reliabilities are in parentheses. *p < .05. **p < .01.

reliably tapping general differences in political attitudes. Inclusion of these measures was expected to be useful for two reasons. First, it allowed us to test the generalizability of Study 1, showing that even general measures of political ideology can predict judgments of blame in our paradigm. Second, it allowed us further leverage in investigating the extent to which the pattern of blaming judgments in our paradigm is due to (a) something specific to SDO per se or (b) something more general about political ideology in addition to, and independent of, SDO. If the former possibility is correct, then the relationship between liberal or conservative attitudes and blame should disappear once individual differences in SDO are controlled for. If the latter account is correct, however, political attitudes could still predict blaming, even after controlling for SDO.

magnitude of this relation was smaller than the correlation between conservatism and liberalism that had emerged in Study 1 (r = –.20, p < .05). Given this modest relationship, therefore, we felt it most appropriate to treat these two measures as distinct (albeit correlated) constructs in the analyses to follow. Table 1 shows the internal reliabilities and intercorrelations among the individual difference variables. It is worth noting that the intercorrelations among these measures were, for the most part, relatively modest aside from the expected strong correlation between the two measures of just world beliefs. One reasonable conclusion to be reached from this table is that our measures appear to be tapping reasonably distinct belief systems, although in some cases there was a modest overlap between them, presumably reflecting their common linkage to general differences in ideology.


Participants Participants included a total of 139 undergraduate psychology students (47 men, 92 women) who participated in return for partial fulfillment of course credit. Personality Instruments The most recent version of the SDO scale (Sidanius et al., 1996) consists of 16 items, half of which are worded in a prodominance direction (e.g., “It’s probably a good thing that certain groups are at the top and other groups are at the bottom”). The other items are worded in a proequality direction (e.g., “Group equality should be our ideal”). The PWE scale consists of 11 items (e.g., “Most people who don’t succeed in life are just plain lazy”). Participants completed the same measure of just world beliefs employed in Study 1 but also completed the just world scale by Rubin and Peplau (1975). Participants also were asked to express their attitudes toward conservatives and liberals along a scale ranging from –5 (strongly dislike) to +5 (strongly like). These measures were negatively correlated with one another, although the


Preliminary Analyses Participants again blamed the male assailant much more than the female victim (Ms = 8.53 vs. 4.29, p < .001). As in Study 1, participant gender also was predictive of blaming, but in this case, such effects were localized entirely for judgments of the female target. When judging the female target, male participants blamed her more than did female participants (Ms = 5.03 vs. 3.91), F(1, 137) = 5.41, p < .01. However, the male target received nearly equal amounts of blame among male versus female participants (Ms = 8.55 vs. 8.52, F < 1.0). Zero-Order Correlations The zero-order correlations between judgments of blame with the various individual difference variables, along with participant gender, are shown in Table 2. The most important aspect of these results is that a direct measure of participants’ support for hierarchical differences in society—as operationalized by the SDO scale—was correlated negatively with judgments of the



male assailant and positively with judgments of the female victim. That is, the higher participants scored in social dominance, the less they blamed the assailant but the more they blamed the victim. This pattern of results is exactly what the legitimization hypothesis would predict. The only other measure to be consistently related to judgments of blame was participants’ liking for the attitude object liberals, which was positively correlated with blaming of the male assailant but negatively correlated with blaming of the female victim. Note that this pattern of results is the mirror image of the pattern of results that emerged from the SDO measure. Other measures yielded a less consistent pattern of results. First, liking for conservatives was positively correlated with blaming of the female (a finding that is compatible with the legitimization hypothesis), but this measure failed to predict judgments of the male assailant. Second, there was a tendency for participants scoring high in just world beliefs to blame the female victim, but this was only true for the Rubin and Peplau scale, and neither just world scale predicted judgments of the male assailant. Finally, female participants tended to blame the female target less than did male participants, but participant gender failed to predict blaming of the male assailant. Regression Analyses Regression analyses were conducted to address two distinct questions. First, as seen in Table 2, judgments of the two targets were significantly correlated with more than one measure. (This was especially true of blaming of the female victim.) A second issue concerned the moderating effects of participant gender on the personality variables. For example, would social dominance orientation predict blaming judgments in a similar way for both male as well as female participants? To address these two issues, we ran two sets of regression analyses for each of the two blaming composites in which we first entered participants’ own gender in addition to the other personality dimensions as main effects followed by the relevant interactions involving gender. (Because the Rubin and Peplau, but not the Lipkus/Dalbert, scale was significantly related to blaming judgments, only the former scale was entered into these regression analyses.) Male target. Only two significant effects emerged from these analyses: First, SDO was negatively related to blaming of the male assailant (β = –.24, p < .01). Second, liberal attitudes were positively correlated with blaming of the male assailant (β = .27, p < .01). Gender failed to moderate either of these effects (both ps > .20). This was reflected by the fact that the relationship between SDO and judgments of blame was similar, regardless of whether participants were male (r = –.33) or female (r = –.28, both

ps < .05). Similarly, the relationship between liberal attitudes and blame was the same for both male participants (r = .30) and female participants (r = .34, both ps < .05). Female target. The two variables that successfully predicted judgments of blame in the analyses for the male target (see above) predicted judgments of the female target as well. In particular, SDO was positively related to judgments of blame of the female target (β = .19, p < .05). Second, liberal attitudes were negatively correlated with blaming of the female target (β = –.17, p < .05). One additional effect emerged from these analyses: Conservative attitudes yielded a pattern similar to that of SDO in that they were positively correlated with blaming of the female victim (β = .17, p < .05). Participant gender again failed to moderate these effects. In other words, analyses yielded a similar pattern for male versus female participants, and this was true for both SDO (rs = .25 vs. .30), liberal attitudes (rs = –.22 vs. –.28), and conservative attitudes (rs = .39 vs. .19, all ps < .05). DISCUSSION

As in Study 1, the primary goal of Study 2 was to test the merits of three hypotheses bearing on the relationship between political ideology (broadly defined) and blaming of female victims of date rape and their male assailants. As in Study 1, much greater support was obtained for the legitimization hypothesis compared to either the just world or personal responsibility hypotheses. The strongest evidence in this regard emerged from the analyses involving SDO, which represents the most direct measure of legitimization beliefs employed in this study. As predicted by the legitimization hypothesis, individual differences in SDO were negatively correlated with blaming judgments of the male target but positively correlated with judgments of the female target. This is exactly what one would predict if people’s reactions toward the rape scenario were being driven by their motivation to preserve traditional power structures in society. Moreover, this was true (a) even after its shared variance with the other predictor variables was held constant and (b) for both male and female participants. Thus, when tested using the measure most relevant to its core assumptions, the legitimization hypothesis received excellent support. Although this does not compromise the main implications of our findings, the conceptual picture becomes a bit more complex once one considers the other kinds of measures used in our research. On one hand, data analyses using participants’ evaluation of the attitude object liberals yielded a mirror image of the pattern of results that were obtained with the SDO measure. That is, proliberal participants tended to blame the male assailant more and the female victim less, compared to anti-

Lambert, Raichle / IDEOLOGY AND BLAME liberal participants. This pattern makes some intuitive sense in that social dominance often is correlated negatively with politically liberal attitudes, and indeed, this was true in our study (see Table 2). To this extent, one might expect liberal attitudes to show the reverse pattern of results when used to predict blaming judgments, which is what we found. This finding converges nicely with the results from Study 1, which measured liberalism in a slightly different way. On the other hand, participants’ beliefs and attitudes regarding conservatism yielded a less consistent pattern. In particular, attitudes toward conservatives were inconsistently related to blaming judgments in Study 2 (although its relation to blaming judgments of the female victim was consistent with the implications of the legitimization hypothesis). This is in contrast to Study 1, which showed that when conservatism was defined in terms of self-defined beliefs, this measure showed strong relations with judgments of both targets. Even in light of these complexities, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that our findings provide greater support for the legitimization hypothesis compared to the other two formulations. That said, some caution should be exercised on the more specific point of conjecturing why the exact way that we operationalized liberalism appeared to matter less than our specific operationalization of conservatism. This caution is necessary because unlike our measure of SDO, our operationalization of political conservatism and liberalism was based on a single response to a survey question (e.g., a request to rate the self with respect to the dimension of conservatism). Thus, an important goal for future work is to administer different kinds of measures of ideology (e.g., values, attitudes toward conservatives, self-defined conservatism) having equal degrees of reliability and construct validity and then compare the extent to which they are predictive of judgments of blame or other kinds of psychological reactions. GENERAL DISCUSSION

The goal of the two studies presented in this article was to gain greater insight into the role of ideology (broadly defined) in cases of rape. Although previous research has implicated ideology as an important predictor in this domain, much of this research has been descriptive, with little attention toward theory development. In our effort to address this gap in the literature, we considered three distinct hypotheses that offer different explanations for why conservative perceivers might blame the female victims of rape more than nonconservative perceivers. Using a variety of different types of measures, Study 1 and Study 2 both provided far greater support for the legitimization hypothesis than for the personal responsibility or just world hypotheses.



Zero-Order Correlation of Individual Difference Variables With Judgments of Blaming of Male Assailant and Female Victim (Study 2) Blaming of Blaming of Male Assailant Female Victim

Social Dominance Orientation Protestant Work Ethic Just World Scale (Dalbert & Yamauchi, 1994; Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996) Just World Scale (Rubin & Peplau, 1975) Attitude toward liberals Attitude toward conservatives Participant gender (1 = male, 2 = female)

–.30** –.11

.29** .04

.16 –.01 .32** –.02 –.01

–.01 .22** –.27** .28** –.19*

*p < .05. **p < .01.

It is worth noting that both studies showed that the relationship of our individual difference measures to blaming judgments was the same, regardless of whether participants were male or female. This latter effect strikes us as extremely important, especially with respect to the fact that women scoring relatively high in SDO blamed the female target more than women who scored relatively low. Unlike men, women would seem to gain little by investing in a belief system that is associated with preserving existing patterns of dominance, of which the difference between men and women is one example. Although future work is needed to further investigate this phenomenon, our results suggest that people’s investment in general ideological principles can guide their reactions toward other persons, independent of and in addition to any vested interest arising out of their shared group membership with the person being judged. On the Effects of Just World Beliefs Most introductory textbooks in social psychology hold a common assumption that just world beliefs play a major role in the process by which people blame the victim. It is useful, however, to distinguish between two types of design that have been used to test this idea. One approach has been to randomly assign participants to conditions in which just world beliefs either are, or are not, likely to mediate attributions of blame. In this approach, just world beliefs are considered to be a commonly held cultural belief system and no attempt is made to measure individual difference variables. There are a reasonable number of studies that have used this approach and that have generated evidence in support of the original tenets of just world theory (Lerner, 1980). Another approach is to measure individual differences in just world beliefs and then use these data to predict participants’ judgments and behavior. As we noted earlier in this article, there has been surprisingly weak support for this notion in the literature. Across the two



studies reported here, we did find one instance in which just world beliefs did play a role. In Study 2, blaming was positively correlated with just world beliefs; however, this was true (a) only when participants judged the female, but not the male, target; (b) only among female, but not male, participants; and (c) only when just world beliefs were operationalized using the Rubin and Peplau (1975) scale. It is worth noting that the circumscribed context in which just world beliefs played a role in our research contrasts sharply with the effects of conservatism, which (a) generally replicated across different measures of ideology, (b) guided reactions toward the male as well as the female target, and (c) held for both male and female participants. These weak results should not, of course, be taken as evidence that measuring individual differences in just world beliefs is not useful. Several studies have shown that such beliefs can have a powerful effect on different types of attitudes, including subjective well-being, marital satisfaction, and perceptions of risk (e.g., Hafner & Olson, 1993; Lambert et al., 1999; Lipkus & Bissonnette, 1996; Lipkus et al., 1996). Thus, there appears to be little question that individual differences in just world beliefs can have a powerful effect on social behavior in many different types of domains. What our results do suggest, however, is that the role of just world beliefs in this particular domain may not be as strong or reliable as other types of constructs (e.g., social dominance orientation). Of course, it could be that just world beliefs play stronger roles in more natural contexts, especially those that represent a more tangible threat to the self. An important goal of future work should be to establish the boundary conditions of when just world beliefs play a role in reactions to rape and when they do not. Some Caveats The laboratory-based nature of this investigation has the advantage of ensuring that participants in any given condition are presented with the same amount and type of information about the rape case. Hence, any differences across participants obviously cannot be due to extra information they obtained about the rape case but rather seem likely to depend on observers going beyond the information given (Bruner, 1957). At the same time, however, the fact that all participants received the same behavioral scenario highlights the fact that future research is needed to investigate the possibly different processes that might emerge when participants are presented with different types of rape scenarios.5 It also should be acknowledged that the precision gained in laboratory-based paradigms necessarily limits the realism and richness afforded by other kinds of methodological approaches. It is thus important for future research to explore the generalizability of these results to situa-

tions in which people receive information about rape in a more stark or visually arresting way (e.g., through having participants respond more personally to a stranger’s account of sexual victimization). In addition, although acquaintance rape represents a serious problem of particular relevance to college students, future work is needed to fully explore the generalizability of our results beyond college samples. Moreover, although acquaintance rape involving male assailants and female victims is the most heavily researched domain of inquiry, there are obviously other types of sexual assault (e.g., male on male rape), and more research is needed to explore the processes underlying perception of those types of sexual assault. Such efforts should be instrumental in leading to better understanding of why different people might react to incidents of rape in predictably different ways. NOTES 1. This hypothesis also suggests that conservative perceivers should be more likely than liberals to hold people personally responsible for positive behaviors and/or outcomes (e.g., getting hired for, rather than fired from, a job). For reasons that are not entirely clear, however, this prediction has not received as much attention in the literature compared to the kinds of explanations that conservatives make for negative outcomes. Although this is an important issue that clearly merits further research, it is beyond the scope of the present article. 2. This argument does not imply that conservatives are somehow in favor of rape or support its role as a normal part of the relationship between men and women. Rather, it suggests that conservative observers should be likely to attribute relatively higher and lower degrees of responsibility to the victim and assailant, respectively. As we shall show, all participants—regardless of ideology—always attribute greater blame to the assailant than to the victim. In addition, our argument does not imply that conservatives should always rationalize aggression against nondominant groups. There may be certain types of interpersonal aggression against persons having no power in society (e.g., children) that people rarely, if ever, attempt to justify. Thus, although conservatism may certainly play a role in the perception of certain kinds of acts, this does not imply that conservatives will show universal justification of all types of interpersonal violence by any given dominant group regardless of context. 3. Part of the reason that predictions for the male target are unclear is that just world theory has mostly focused on people’s psychological reactions toward the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of misfortune. In particular, it seemed just as plausible that just world beliefs would be positively correlated with blaming of the male target (as part of a more general tendency to find fault with people who act in bad ways) as it would be for just world beliefs to be negatively correlated with these judgments (which might occur if participants scoring high in just world beliefs tended to take the side of the man vis-à-vis the woman). 4. Another way of framing the general issue arising out of these supplemental analyses concerns whether liberalism and conservatism merely represent endpoints along a bipolar dimension or whether they represent two distinct unipolar constructs. The former view suggests that effects obtained from measures of conservatism should simply be the mirror image of those obtained from measures of liberalism. However, the latter view does not necessarily make this prediction. Our own view is that the answer to this question can depend on the specific way that liberalism and conservatism are operationalized (see Lambert & Chasteen, 1997, for a related discussion). Indeed, as we shall show presently, this point is germane to the pattern of results that emerged from Study 2. 5. In some of our earlier work (Raichle, 1996), we presented participants with scenarios similar to the one used in the present research,

Lambert, Raichle / IDEOLOGY AND BLAME except that the female victim offered physical and verbal resistance in combination rather than verbal resistance alone. The pattern of results emerging from participants’ reactions to this verbal + physical resistance scenario differed from the present findings in two related ways. First, participants appeared to regard this scenario as a more clear-cut case of rape because there was virtually no variability in the extent to which participants attributed extremely high levels of blame to the male assailant and, conversely, absolved the female victim from any wrongdoing. Second, individual differences in ideology were not reliably correlated to judgments of blame in this case. These findings are relevant to our earlier point (see Note 1), which is that there are likely to be cases of relatively extreme interpersonal violence that elicit very similar reactions among perceivers, irrespective of their political ideology. REFERENCES Acock, A., & Ireland, N. (1983). Attribution of blame in rape cases: The impact of norm violation, gender, and sex-role attitude. Sex Roles, 9, 179-193. Anderson, K. B., Cooper, H., & Okamura, L. (1997). Individual differences and attitudes toward rape: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 295-315. Blumer, H. (1961). Race prejudice as a sense of group position. In J. Masuoka & P. Valien (Eds.), Race relations: Problems and theory (pp. 217-227). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Brownmiller, S. (1975). Against our will. New York: Simon & Schuster. Bruner, J. (1957). Going beyond the information given. In H. Gruber (Ed.), Contemporary approaches to cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217-230. Burt, M. R. (1991). Rape myths and acquaintance rape. In A. Parrot & L. Bechhofer (Eds.), Acquaintance rape: The hidden crime (pp. 26-40). New York: John Wiley. Carroll, J. (1979). Judgments by parole boards. In I. H. Frieze, D. Bar-Tal, & J. S. Carroll (Eds.), New approaches to social problems: Applications of attribution theory (pp. 285-308). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Carroll, J., Perkowitz, W., Lurigo, A., & Weaver, K. (1987). Sentencing goals, causal attributions, and personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 107-118. Conover, P., & Feldman, S. (1981). The origins and meaning of liberal-conservative self-identifications. American Journal of Political Science, 25, 617-645. Dalbert, C., & Yamauchi, L. A. (1994). Belief in a just world and attitudes towards immigrants and foreign workers: A cultural comparison between Hawaii and Germany. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 1612-1626. Deitz, S. R., Littman, M., & Bentley, B. J. (1984). Attribution of responsibility for rape: The influence of observer empathy, victim resistance, and victim attractiveness. Sex Roles, 10, 261-280. Drout, C. E., & Gaertner, S. L. (1994). Gender differences in reactions to female victims. Social Behavior and Personality, 22, 267-277. Feather, N. (1985). Attitudes, values, and attributions: Explanations of unemployment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 876-889. Furnham, A., & Procter, E. (1989). Belief in a just world: Review and critique of the individual difference literature. British Journal of Social Psychology, 28, 365-384. Gilmartin-Zena, P. (1987). Attitudes toward rape: Student characteristics as predictors. Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology, 15, 175-182. Green, D. P. (1988). On the dimensionality of public sentiment toward partisan and ideological groups. American Journal of Political Science, 32, 758-780. Hafer, C. L., & Olson, J. (1993). Belief in a just world, discontent, and assertive actions by working women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 30-38. Hogarth, R. (1971). Sentencing as a human process. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. Janoff-Bulman, R., Timko, C., & Carli, L. L. (1985). Cognitive biases in blaming the victim. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 21, 161-177.


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