Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2014

Capstone Advisor

Dr. Leonard Newman

Honors Reader

Dr. Richard Gramzow

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


Previous research on the phenomenon of victim blaming indicates a significant interaction of just-world beliefs and perspective-taking, such that imagining oneself in the situation of a victim causes a significant threat to the self. This in turn leads to moral judgments that reduce this threat and restore just-world beliefs. The purpose of this study was to identify the effect of mood on individual tendencies to blame victims of human trafficking. While the results failed to fully support the connection between mood, perspective, just-world beliefs, and blame, a weak, though significant, relationship was found between just-world beliefs and victim blame. Implications of this study for future victim blame research as well as a number of alternative strategies for restoring just-world beliefs are discussed. Limitations for this study are primarily related to its reliance on a web-based survey, as well as possible issues with the stimulus material.

Victim blaming is very much a contextually dependent phenomenon, and thus calls for further research into the situations most likely to bring about this paradoxical reaction. The present study is situated within the context of human trafficking, a widespread, global issue affecting tens of millions of people worldwide. Estimates from the United States Department of State and the International Labour Organization place the number of human trafficking victims between 20 and 30 million men, women, and children at any given time. Only a small fraction of these individuals receive the help they need, however, as public awareness of this problem remains alarmingly low. Victim identification is the key to combatting human trafficking, and is dependent on the public’s ability to help law enforcement and non-governmental organizations recognize important indicators of possible victims. Numerous organizations have been working to educate people about human trafficking, many of which rely on the sharing of victims’ stories. The victim blame literature and more recent perspective-taking literature indicate a number of issues with this approach, however, and this study intended to help fill these knowledge gaps. While the results were largely inconclusive, they point to some suggested best practices that may be useful for future public awareness campaigns. Further research is required to determine the most beneficial way to share information about victims of human trafficking and help end this global crisis.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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