Condemning the Victimized

  • Melvin J. Lerner
Part of the Perspectives in Social Psychology book series (CISJ)


Before getting back to “justice,” let us consider for a moment the ironic injustice of denigrating innocent victims. What could lead people to view victims in a negative light? One possibility might be simply an esthetic reaction. There is something about the victim that violates our esthetic sense. The victim is ugly looking, acts in a gross or clumsy manner. Poor people often look “wrong,” their clothes, their grooming. They may talk in ways that appear gross or crude to members of the middle class. They may eat foods, live in dwellings that arouse feelings of revulsion. And they may smell bad. For most people there is something repulsive about the sight of someone who is clearly disabled, or disfigured (Kleck, 1969; Richardson, Hartof, Goodman, & Dornbusch, 1971). And, given our tendency to empathize with those who are in great distress, there is a limit to which even the most saintly among us can tolerate being in the presence of human misery.


Social Responsibility Work Period Main Dependent Variable Negative Light Innocent Victim 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melvin J. Lerner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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