Eye movements to audio-visual scenes reveal expectations of a just world.
Callan, Mitch J.
Ferguson, Heather J.
When confronted with bad things happening to good people, observers often engage reactive strategies, such as victim derogation, to maintain a belief in a just world. Although such reasoning is usually made retrospectively, we investigated the extent to which knowledge of another person’s good or bad behavior can also bias people’s online expectations for subsequent good or bad outcomes. Using a fully-crossed design, participants listened to auditory scenarios that varied in terms of whether the characters engaged in morally good or bad behavior while their eye movements were tracked around concurrent visual scenes depicting good and bad outcomes. We found that the good (bad) behavior of the characters influenced gaze preferences for good (bad) outcomes just prior to the actual outcomes being revealed. These findings suggest that beliefs about a person’s moral worth encourage observers to foresee a preferred deserved outcome as the event unfolds. We include evidence to show that this effect cannot be explained in terms of affective priming or matching strategies.