Justice Sensitivity

Balance scale with a feather on one side

Taken together, extensive research has revealed that justice sensitivity is a valuable construct for the description, prediction, explanation, and modification of individual differences in justice-related emotion and behavior. Justice sensitivity is nonredundant with other personality constructs but has meaningful overlap with variables of inter- and intrapersonal functioning. It has been shown to be a strong predictor of emotion and behavior in various domains of social justice. Variance in reactions to unfairness and in the proneness to act in accordance with justice principles has been explained above and beyond the explanatory power of competing constructs. In particular, the distinction of four justice sensitivity perspectives—namely, victim, observer, beneficiary, and perpetrator sensitivityhas added considerably to the understanding of justice-related motivation. All justice sensitivity perspectives appear to reflect the individual’s concern for justice to some degree. However, observer, beneficiary, and perpetrator sensitivity seem to capture a genuine concern for justice as they are related to prosocial inclinations and foster an adherence to justice principles. Victim sensitivity seems to involve a motivational mixture—a concern for justice on the one hand and the fear of being exploited on the other—resulting in antisocial tendencies in situations involving social uncertainty, the threat of being exploited, or temptation.

Particularly with regard to the observer, beneficiary, and perpetrator perspectives, justice sensitivity can reasonably be assumed to be an indicator of individual differences in the justice motive. Due to their information processing patterns, justice-sensitive persons more readily perceive situations as justice-related, and justice concerns are more often situationally activated to guide their behavior. Furthermore, emotions resulting from the perception of injustice are more pronounced among justice-sensitive persons and motivate action in accordance with justice principles. Thus, justice sensitivity fulfills the crucial characteristics of a motive (McClelland, 1985).

As outlined in the introduction, besides justice sensitivity, belief in a just world is also considered to be an indicator of the justice motive. However, as reviewed above, empirical results have shown that the correlation between justice sensitivity and belief in a just world is very low. Moreover, these two constructs have been found to explain distinct parts of the variance in justice-related outcomes (e.g., Dalbert & Umlauft, 2009). In an attempt to reconcile these findings with the notion that both constructs indicate the strength of a justice motive, Baumert et al. (2013; see also Montada, 1998) emphasized that the belief in a just world is assumed to reflect a psychological need for justice as a principle of order in the world. In other words, the belief in a just world appears to capture a conditional concern for justice that leads an individual to adhere to justice standards and act in the name of justice only as long as the belief in a just world is not threatened or options for active restoration of justice are easily accessible. By contrast, observer, beneficiary, and perpetrator sensitivity appear to capture the commitment to justice as a moral principle, thus reflecting an unconditional concern for justice. Even under conditions of temptation (Lotz et al., 2013), personal costs (e.g., Lotz et al., 2011), or the threat of being exploited (e.g., Gollwitzer et al., 2009), highly observer-, beneficiary-, or perpetrator-sensitive people have been found to adhere to justice standards and act against violations of such standards.

(PDF) Justice Sensitivity

There are a number of possible reasons for neurodivergent people experiencing emotions more intensely than others. Neurodivergent people often experience emotional labilityemotional impulsivity, and negative intent attribution.

We’re kind of an intense bunch sometimes.

But that’s okay, our intensity can be a positive thing too: Neurodivergents can be more creative and more passionate. That creativity and passion can drive us to take action where others may not, and our cognitive rigidity can give us a strong sense of morals. These features combined make us more susceptible to a variety of sensitivities, including justice sensitivity.

For example, in 2015, researchers found that participants with ADHD reported significantly higher justice sensitivity and greater perceptions of injustice than those without ADHD.

That same year, Schäfer & Kraneburg did an interesting study in search of a deeper understanding of why neurodivergents are prone to Justice Sensitivity, which is what I will discuss here.

According to Baumert & Schmitt, “justice-sensitive people’s information processing should be guided in a way that raises their probability of experiencing injustice compared with less justice-sensitive people,” and their “emotional reactions to injustice should be stronger the more justice is endorsed as a fundamental value.”

In other words, people who experience high justice sensitivity have a stronger tendency to notice and identify wrongdoing and have more intense cognitive, emotional, and behavioural reactions to perceived injustice.

Additionally, “justice-sensitive people should ruminate longer and more intensively about experienced injustice than less justice-sensitive people” and should have an “inclination to restore justice and undo injustice”.

Those of us with justice sensitivity have a harder time letting these things go and have a strong desire to make right that which we feel is unfair or morally wrong.

Neurodivergents are more likely to experience justice sensitivity, in particular children, but adults as well.

“Kids with ADHD tend to have a strong sense of justice, sensitivity, and of course, energy. When they feel wronged, disempowered, or unheard, they can become quite mad.”

— Dr. Sharon Saline
Neurodivergents: Justice Warriors! by Jillian Enright | Invisible Illness

Results: Participants with ADHD produced higher values in observer and profiteer sensitivity than the control group. There were no differences in perpetrator sensitivity. Questionnaire results reveal that the inattentive subtype exhibited higher justice sensitivity than the hyperactive/impulsive and combined subtypes and the control group on all dimensions. Conclusion:The results confirm that justice sensitivity is indeed more pronounced in people with ADHD, particularly in the inattentive subtype. It is suggested that pronounced justice sensitivity may be a coping strategy for inferring appropriate social behavior.

The Kind Nature Behind the Unsocial Semblance: ADHD and Justice Sensitivity—A Pilot Study – Thomas Schäfer, Thomas Kraneburg, 2015
I know I've ruined a night or two
I couldn't hold back my views
Family dinner turned off the news
Stuck in a silent room
And I'd rather die by the truth
And hide away feeling shades of blue
I've ruined a night or two

'Cause it's hard being hardcore
I'll cut the lights and cry in the dark more
If you don't feel, then what the hell is a heart for?
'Cause it's hard being hardcore
Everybody's got the same blank face
Tough roughing up the place
When you're not putting up a front
Now you're the crazy one
Leather jackets line up at the bar
Good at hiding who they are
Everybody's got the same blank face

So I'd rather die by the truth
And hide away feeling shades of blue
You want tears, I've shed a few

'Cause it's hard being hardcore
I'll cut the lights and cry in the dark more
If you don't feel, then what the hell is a heart for?
'Cause it's hard being hardcore

--Hardcore by Allison Ponthier

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they