(301) 636-6569

Cognitive Bias Series: Just-World Hypothesis

by | Sep 1, 2020 | Career Success Blog, Morning Musings Blog

We tend to believe the world is just, therefore we assume acts of injustice are deserved

Living in a just world in the United States is a right and privilege extended by our Constitution. That right and privilege keeps us safe from hurt, harm, and exploitation by others. It poses a responsibility on authority figures to ensure justice is served. It provides all of us a certain peace of mind that the right things will happen at the right time to ensure the right outcome for all people living in this country.

And yet, a just world is far from reality for many women and most people of color; and it would be an injustice to them to assume it is so. Because when we assume everyone enjoys the same access to a just world, we overlook the multiple and myriad ways in which women and people of color suffer injustices large and small. Because your grocery store is stocked full of everything you can possibly wish to purchase, you pay little attention to the food deserts experienced by large numbers of people in both urban and rural settings in this country. Because your son or daughter may leave home to run an errand without a thought to his or her safety, you may not pay attention to the college student of color pulled over more than 10 times by police “just because” and then released. When you read about such events or see them on television, you may assume said college student deserved it—speeding, broken light, expired license plates—and the police involved were simply doing their jobs. The recent protests across the US and around the world may have helped you realize that “just because” happens quite frequently in this country and it is actually an unjust world for many people.

There is a similar corollary in the work environment. “Sofia didn’t get the promotion she expected so she must not have been ready for the position.” Nearly every one of us knows someone who found themselves in this scenario, or we ourselves have “been there.” The assumption of a just, unbiased promotion system is a disservice to everyone, but most particularly for women and people of color. In point of fact, most managers unconsciously prefer to hire someone with whom they feel comfortable—someone much like themselves. It often takes a leader’s conscious effort to hire someone relatively unknown to them and with whom he or she has little or no relationship. This lack of relationship puts many women and people of color at a distinct disadvantage in terms of career success.

We all have opportunities to pause and check ourselves when consciously or unconsciously assuming anyone deserves an act of injustice, and particularly in situations involving women and people of color. I hope this post will remind us to do so.

ConnectWITH US