Introduction to Just-World Hypothesis
The just-world hypothesis is a hypothesis about how the world works. The idea is that there are some facts about the world that are true, and some which are not. There are facts about the world that are true, such as: that most people do not like being tortured, that a lot of people have died in wars and other violent deaths, and so on.
But there are also facts about the world which are not true, such as: that many people believe in God or gods or magic or spirits, and so on.
The just-world hypothesis claims that this distinction between true and false is essential to reality – all other facts about the world would be irrelevant if it were false. If a trivial fact is false then reality would be meaningless; if a crucial truth is wrong then we would be unable to make sense of our surroundings. But if both trivial truths and crucial truths were true then our understanding of reality could be affected by those trivial truths.
The Just-World Hypothesis
When we think of the just-world hypothesis, we immediately think of the “God’s eye view” of human nature, with people all acting in their own self-interest. But as noted in a recent post by Julian Sanchez, it is actually much more nuanced than this. It is not only about one’s actions being influenced by their own interests, but also about how our actions are perceived and understood by others (and not just the ones in our immediate social circle).
In other words: what is the just-world hypothesis? In his recent post Julian Sanchez notes that many economists have put forth an idea called the “just-world hypothesis” which goes something like this:
If you believe that your actions will be viewed as correct most of the time (hence your actions will be evaluated more often and granted more weight), then you will act in ways that are consistent with this belief. If you do not believe that your actions will be viewed as correct most of the time, then you will behave differently (hence your evaluation of your own intentions and behavior may be less likely to be positive).
I don’t know if he is talking about his beliefs or his conclusions here. What I find interesting is that many people have adopted this notion without knowing what it means or what its implications are. It’s not a new idea at all but has been around for a long time. It has even been considered a fundamental tenet of psychology and neuroscience.
So why does this matter? Well, for one thing, it can help us understand why we live our lives the way we do: why we feel bad about ourselves when things go wrong and why we feel so good when things go right. Similarly, it can help us understand WHY we are so enamored with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter — which have now become so popular because they serve as perfect errands for how people want to make sense of life: what other people are doing; where they are; who they know; who they “like”; etc., etc., etc.. It can help us understand how social media platforms serve as perfect filters through which people consume information on their lives — which is why my goal here was to explain what a product-market fit market looks like from both ends (or at least different ends) , while also giving some context to make sense of these markets.
The Just World Hypothesis: A brief introduction I took up
Examples of the just-world hypothesis
The just-world hypothesis is a philosophical argument that assumes that the world as we experience it is not only true but also fair. The most common version of this argument goes like this:
“The Just World” Hypothesis
If you were born with an IQ of 100, that means you are a genius.
If you were born with an IQ of 200, you are a genius. If you were born with an IQ of 300, your intelligence rivals Einstein’s. If you were born with an IQ of 400, your intelligence rivals God’s.
If you were born with an IQ of 500, your intelligence rivals God’s.
If you were born with an IQ of 600, your intelligence rivals God’s. And so on..
Basically, it says that if someone was born at a certain total number than he is a genius and those others are geniuses too if they reached a different total number than him (the above example uses the case where someone has an IQ of 100). You can see why this type of thought is often linked to the idea that people should be rewarded for their achievements. It’s even implied in some theories about evolution (e.g., Pinker).
There’s also some debate about whether it’s actually true; there have been many other claims suggesting it’s false (e.g., Moreland). It’s certainly powerful and somewhat persuasive when used to defend one’s beliefs or make other arguments – like the claim that people who get rich in business deserve their fortune because they didn’t do anything special to deserve it; or arguing against those who claim otherwise; but I think the idea is overblown: most people will not get rich by luck alone – they need skills and abilities, which can only be developed by putting in the effort; so I don’t really believe in “the just-world hypothesis”. But if anyone does believe in it then please feel free to link me to this post explaining why I’m wrong…..
Critiques of the just-world hypothesis
This is a popular and highly cited topic in the science of philosophy. There are many critics of the just-world hypothesis, but the one that most knocks the hypothesis flat is this one:
When you look at a person who is in a coma, and you see that they have no pain, they have a heart attack, they are senile and can’t speak, what do you think it means?
It means that there must be an alternative explanation for their condition. So if we could test it …. What would it mean? Well …. There must be an alternative explanation! So there must be another explanation – an unknown factor – causing the person’s condition!
That’s not to say that there aren’t many other things we don’t know about people in comas; clearly, there are many effects of brain damage that we don’t understand. But there are some things about our bodies which we can test for and some other things about our brains which we cannot detect. And so far, none of us has been able to find any connection between them; none of us can prove that there isn’t another factor at work here. It seems as though every aspect of our lives must depend on our ability to see beyond the obvious into the unknown – so in this case, it would seem that any theory based on observing people who are unconscious would need to rely on hypothetical factors (such as “the universe is just random noise”).
In fact, I have spent years trying to come up with exactly this formulation and have finally done so more fully than I had intended: Instead of saying “There must be another explanation! So there must be another explanation – an unknown factor – causing this person’s condition! There must be some unknown factor here! This person is in a coma because… because… Oh, wait! That isn’t right – they haven’t told me yet what their condition was! But still… The universe is just random noise… The universe doesn’t care about people; it only cares about numbers… Let us calculate them mathematically…. We will divide by pi… …and then divide by 2pi…. We will take logs…. We will use exponents…. In fact: The universe is just random noise!! It doesn’t care about people at all!! It only cares about numbers!! Let us divide by pi!!! Let us divide by 2pi
In this post, I’ll discuss the just-world hypothesis, which is a popular argument for why the world is what it is and we have to accept that as the way it is.
The argument goes like this: 1) there are large differences between people’s expectations about what would be considered “good” for them, and 2) this means that the world isn’t a predictable place. There are large differences between people’s expectations about what would be considered “good” for them. This means that the world isn’t a predictable place. And everything else in life can be viewed as something else than what its actual reality is. So there are big differences between people’s…