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the East German system collapsed, mostly for economic reasons. Many East German
citizens were disappointed with the system’s inability to provide a
comfortable standard of living. Most East Germans watched West German TV
programs and a few were allowed to travel to
unification was followed by a one-sided assimilation. The political, legal, and
economic systems that had evolved in
predictions soon turned out to be overly optimistic. Due to the low
productivity of East German industry and the poor infrastructure all over the
country (transportation, communication), the cost of making the
Due to their enduring status of inferiority and economic inferiority, a large majority of East Germans feel like second class citizens. From various points of view, this is an unfortunate and even tragic situation. From a scientific social psychological point of view, this inter-group situation in united Germany provides an opportunity for testing social justice theories, most importantly the theory of relative deprivation (RDT; e.g., Crosby, 1976, 1981; Davis, 1959; Runciman, 1966; Stouffer, Suchman, DeVinney, Star, & Williams, 1949) and its counterpart, the theory of relative privilege (RPT; e.g., Hoffman, 1976; Montada, Schmitt & Dalbert, 1986; Montada & Schneider, 1989; Schmitt, Behner, Montada, Müller, & Müller-Fohrbrodt, 2000).
became obvious soon after the unification that the relative deprivation of
that the inter-group situation in united
meta-theoretical perspective for the study was inspired by earlier work
conducted in our group (http://www.gerechtigkeitsforschung.de/english/).
It integrates theories of personality, social psychology, and human development
into a broad theoretical framework that includes four types of hypothetical
constructs: personality constructs such as belief in a just world, cognition
constructs such as judging an outcome as deserved, emotion constructs such as
guilt, and behavior constructs such as helping unfairly deprived victims. In addition,
the present research included a large variety of demographic variables and
indicators of objective living conditions. These variables were needed in order
to explore links between the objective living conditions in united
that demographic variables and objective living conditions have some impact on
the psychological variables of interest, great care was taken to obtain a
sample that was as representative of the German population as possible.
Participants were recruited on the basis of a geographical division of
A more detailed description of the aims, scope, design, variables, and sample of the project can be obtained from a research report that is available online (http://www.gerechtigkeitsforschung.de/berichte/beri110.pdf).
project was located at three universities, the University of Trier, the Otto-von-Guericke-University of Magdeburg,
and the Center for Justice Research at the
Here is a photo of the core research team (from left to right): Andreas Schmal, Manfred Schmitt, Jürgen Maes. The photo was taken in 1996 by Thomas Boll.
Because of a specific interest of the German public and the German scientific community in the project, most results were published in German (http://www.uni-landau.de/schmittmanfred/forschung/gip/publikationen.html). However, results of interest beyond the German readership and of interest from a basic research perspective were also published in English. Some of these publications are available online as research reports. Other papers were published as articles in journals and books. These articles can be obtained on request from Manfred Schmitt (firstname.lastname@example.org). A brief summary of the English articles follows in chronological order.
and Maes (1998) provided a first cross sectional analysis of the data and
explored how perceptions of the living conditions in united
Maes and Schmitt (1999) replicated results from previous studies suggesting that the belief in a just world may consist of several components that need to be distinguished conceptually. In these studies, two types of belief in a just world -- belief in immanent justice and belief in ultimate justice – were found to differ systematically in how they correlate with other variables. Only belief in immanent justice correlated with blaming and derogating innocent victims. By contrast, belief in ultimate justice was associated with positive evaluations of victims and with prosocial behavior. This pattern of correlations was replicated. Several additional correlations supported the conclusion that belief in immanent and belief in ultimate justice imply different ways of dealing with justice issues. Immanent justice correlated with draconity, the proneness to strict and severe judgments. By contrast, ultimate justice was associated with mildness. Only ultimate justice correlated with existential guilt and pity for the underprivileged. Finally, immanent justice correlated with a preference for the equity principle, whereas ultimate justice correlated with preferring the need principle and the equality principle.
Schmitt, Maes, and Reichle (2001) used the data and data from several additional studies for testing two influential social justice theories, Lerner’s Justice Motive Theory (Lerner, 1980) and Montada’s Existential Guilt Theory (Montada, Schmitt, & Dalbert, 1986; Montada & Schneider, 1989). Results converged and were largely in agreement with both theories. In line with the aforementioned analysis of Maes and Schmitt (1999), however, results also suggested that the belief in a just world needs to be decomposed into several ways of believing in justice that differentially affect social judgments and interpersonal behavior.
Schmitt and Maes (2002) tested whether ingroup bias can buffer the effects of relative deprivation. This idea was derived from Social Identity Theory and Social Categorization Theory. Assuming that East Germans’ self-esteem is threatened by unfavorable social comparisons with West Germans, Schmitt and Maes (2002) predicted that East Germans would employ ingroup-bias as a self-defensive mechanism. In line with this prediction, it was found that (a) East Germans feel unfairly deprived compared to West Germans in four important quality of life domains, (b) they displayed ingroup bias vis à vis West Germans, especially on the dimension of virtue and integrity, (c) ingroup bias buffers the effect of relative deprivation on mental health over time, and (d) ingroup bias is determined longitudinally by relative deprivation. West Germans felt privileged compared to East Germans and considered their advantages to be undeserved. Unexpectedly, West Germans displayed outgroup bias on the stereotype dimensions of virtue and integrity. This bias is interpreted as an effort to appease the moral outrage of East Germans and to silence their guilty conscience due to undeserved advantages.
Reichle and Schmitt (2002) used the data for testing two mechanisms that people commonly employ for preserving their belief in a just world and for defending it against threats. Being confronted with disadvantaged groups is a frequent source of such threats. People who believe in a just world can defend their belief either by helping the disadvantaged or by derogating them. Reichle and Schmitt (2002) used indicators of both mechanisms and tested their longitudinal effects on changes in the just world belief. They found that West Germans are more likely to defend their just world belief by helping disadvantaged East Germans than by derogating them.
Schmitt, Maes & Widaman (2003) tested a widely accepted version of relative deprivation theory stating that fraternal deprivation causes protest, but does not impact the individual’s well-being, whereas egoistic deprivation impairs the well-being of deprived persons, but does not cause protest. Schmitt et al. (2003) considered this view incomplete, predicted that fraternal deprivation can impair well-being under certain conditions, and suggested that negative emotion and negative social identity are mediating mechanisms for this effect. In line with predictions, longitudinal effects of fraternal deprivation on life satisfaction and mental health were identified and these effects were independent of an individual’s life quality. The longitudinal effect of individual life quality on life satisfaction (beta = .10) was about twice as large as the longitudinal effect of fraternal deprivation (beta = -.06) on life satisfaction. The effects of individual life quality and fraternal deprivation on mental health were equal (beta =|.04|). The authors discussed reasons for the small effect sizes and concluded that fraternal deprivation is no less problematic for individuals’ well being than is the quality of their personal living conditions.
Maes and Schmitt (2004) explored how different components of the just world belief (belief in ultimate justice, belief in immanent justice, general belief in a just world, general belief in an unjust world) change across age. They also investigated whether the correlation between the belief in a just world and other constructs changes as a function of age. One of their findings was that the correlation between belief in a just world and self-esteem increased with age. Whereas among adolescents, self-esteem was unrelated to belief in a just world, both constructs correlated positively among the elderly. Another finding was that the correlation between belief in a just world and socio-political attitudes changed as a function of age. Whereas belief in a just world was unrelated to fascism, authoritarianism, and Machiavellianism among adolescents, a positive correlation was found among adults, and this correlation increased with age. The opposite trend was observed when belief in a just world was correlated with socialism. Among adolescents, the correlation between belief in a just world and socialism was positive. After adolescence, the correlation between both constructs gradually vanished with age.
Schmitt, Gollwitzer, Maes, and Arbach (2005) used the data set from the project and data sets from other studies for exploring the reliability, trait consistency, occasion specificity, and method specificity of three justice sensitivity scales (victim, beneficiary, observer; http://www.uni-landau.de/schmittmanfred/english/forschung/sbi/index.html). Their analyses also provided evidence for the convergent and discriminant construct validity of these scales. Observer sensitivity and beneficiary sensitivity correlated more highly with each other than with victim sensitivity. Self-related concerns (Machiavellianism, paranoia, suspiciousness, vengeance, jealousy, interpersonal trust) correlated more highly with victim sensitivity than with observer and beneficiary sensitivity. Other-related concerns (role taking, empathy, social responsibility) correlated more highly with observer and beneficiary sensitivity than with victim sensitivity. Low correlations between justice sensitivity and just world belief constructs were found. Few correlations between justice sensitivity and broad personality traits were significant. Victim sensitivity correlated with neuroticism (» .30). Beneficiary sensitivity correlated with agreeableness (» .20). Schmitt et al. (2005) concluded from this pattern of results that observer and beneficiary sensitivity reflect high moral standards, whereas victim sensitivity seems to be a mixture of self-protective motives and moral concerns.
Gollwitzer, Schmitt, Schalke, Maes, and Baer (2005) used the data set from the project as well as data from two other studies for testing more specifically the aforementioned conclusion drawn by Schmitt et al. (2005). In the Gollwitzer et al. (2005) studies, the effects of victim sensitivity and beneficiary sensitivity on indicators of prosocial behavior (i.e., existential guilt, solidarity, and responsibility ascriptions towards the disadvantaged) and antisocial behavior (i.e., the willingness to transgress a norm in a moral temptation dilemma) were estimated. It was expected that beneficiary sensitivity would be associated positively with prosocial behavior and negatively with antisocial behavior. The opposite pattern was expected for victim sensitivity. All three studies supported these hypotheses. Taken together, the available evidence suggests that beneficiary sensitivity is a genuine, other-related concern for justice and social responsibility, whereas victim sensitivity is a mixture of self-related concerns and genuine concerns for justice.
Gollwitzer, M., Schmitt, M., Schalke, R., Maes, J. & Baer, A. (2005). Asymmetrical effects of justice sensitivity perspectives on prosocial and antisocial behavior. Social Justice Research, 18, 183-201.
Lerner, M. J.
(1980). The belief in a just world. A fundamental delusion.
Maes, J. & Schmitt, M. (1999). More on ultimate and immament justice: Results from the research projekt "Justice as a Problem within Reunified Germany". Social Justice Research, 12, 65-78.
Maes, J. &
Schmitt, M. (2004). Transformation of the justice motive? Belief in a just
world and its correlates in different age groups. In C. Dalbert & H. Sallay
(Eds.), The justice motive in adolescence and young adulthood (pp. 64-82).
Maes, J., Schmitt, M., Lischetzke, T., & Schmiedemann, V. (1998). Effects of experienced injustice in unified Germany on well-being and mental health (Berichte aus der Arbeitsgruppe "Verantwortung, Gerechtigkeit, Moral" Nr. 110). Trier: Universität Trier, Fachbereich I - Psychologie.
Montada, L., Schmitt, M. & Dalbert, C. (1986). Thinking about justice
and dealing with one’s own privileges: A study of existential guilt.
In H. W. Bierhoff, R. Cohen & J. Greenberg (Eds.), Justice in social
relations (pp. 125-143).
Montada, L. & Schneider, A. (1989). Justice and emotional reactions to the disadvantaged. Social Justice Research, 3, 313-344.
Reichle, B. &
Schmitt, M. (2002). Helping and Rationalization as Alternative Strategies for
Restoring the Belief in a Just World: Evidence from Longitudinal Change
Analyses. In M. Ross & D.T. Miller (Eds.), The justice motive in everyday
life (pp. 127-148).
Schmitt, M. &
Maes, J. (1998). Perceived injustice in unified
Schmitt, M. & Maes, J. (2002). Stereotypic ingroup bias as self-defense against relative deprivation: Evidence from a longitudinal study of the German unification process. European Journal of Social Psychology, 32, 309-326.
Schmitt, M., Gollwitzer, M., Maes, J. & Arbach, D. (2005). Justice sensitivity: Assessment and location in the personality space. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 21, 202-211.
Schmitt, M., Maes,
J. & Reichle, B. (2001). Responsibility and attitudes towards the
disadvantaged. In H.W. Bierhoff & A.E. Auhagen (Eds.), Responsibility
– the many faces of a social phenomenon (pp. 167-178).
Schmitt, M., Maes, J. & Widaman, K. (2003). Longitudinal effects of fraternal deprivation on life satisfaction and mental health (Berichte aus der Arbeitsgruppe "Verantwortung, Gerechtigkeit, Moral" Nr. 154). Trier: Universität Trier, Fachbereich I - Psychologie.