Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kevin L. Blankenship


This document summarizes my program of research that utilized a motivated reasoning perspective to examine factors that contribute to prejudice, discrimination and victim blame. After briefly introducing the work, I start with a review of motivated reasoning, and in particular system justification theory, as a theoretical backdrop with which to examine work ethic and just-world beliefs. Study 1 examined the effects of individual differences in endorsement of work ethic, applicant race, and resume quality on thoughts, impressions, and support for hiring in response to an individual applying for a job. Results indicated that when participants high in work-ethic beliefs were presented with an applicant whose resume quality was low and who was also Black, they were motivated to use the resume quality information as an additional piece of evidence to justify disadvantaged group status. Studies 2 and 3 examined the role of an applicant's sexual orientation, source of infection, and participants' beliefs regarding whether sexual orientation as a choice in predicting support for admittance to a free prescription drug coverage program for individuals with HIV/AIDS. These studies found that when infection was uncontrollable, participants who believe that sexual orientation is a choice were less likely to support admittance for the gay (vs. heterosexual) applicant. In other words, these participants appear to have used the sexual orientation of the gay applicant as a way to explain infection (when infection was uncontrollable), thereby reducing the threat to their just world beliefs and justifying the system where gay men are a disadvantaged group. Study 3 also examined motivation to control prejudice as a competing motive that overrode these effects. Finally, Studies 4 and 5 examined individual differences in endorsement of just-world beliefs as a moderator of the effect of justice primes on victim blame (Studies 4 and 5) and derogation (Study 5) in response to someone who has been laid off from their job. Results showed that priming justice-related values influenced both those low and high in endorsement of just-world beliefs, such that the justice-related primes resulted in increased system justification tendencies (i.e., greater victim blame and derogation) among those high in just-world beliefs. However, among those low in just-world beliefs, priming justice-related values resulted in reduced victim blame and derogation, indicating that the primes made these participants more aware of their beliefs that the system is not just. Together these studies help demonstrate the effects that motivated reasoning, and in particular the motive to system-justify, has on responses to others facing a wide variety of circumstances.


Copyright Owner

Renee Murray



File Format


File Size

158 pages