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59997952

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STUDIA PSYCHOLOGICA, 53, 2011, 1
27
SELF-ESTEEM, LOCUS OF CONTROL ANDPERSONALITY TRAITS AS PREDICTORS OF SENSITIVITYTO INJUSTICE
Peter ŽITNÝ
1
, Peter HALAMA
2
1
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, University of TrnavaHornopotočná 23, 918 43 Trnava, Slovak RepublicE-mail: peterzitny@email.cz
2
Institute of Experimental Psychology, Slovak Academy of SciencesDúbravská cesta 9, 813 64 Bratislava, Slovak RepublicE-mail: peter.halama@savba.sk 
 Abstrac
: The study analyzes the problem whether locus of control and self-esteem can explainthe unique variance in predicting sensitivity to injustice not explained by personality traits andwhether personality traits interact with self-esteem and locus of control when predicting sensitiv-ity to injustice. The research was conducted on the Slovak sample of 254 undergraduate students(71 males, 183 females) - mean age 21.3 (range 17-27). Sensitivity to injustice was measured bythe Sensitivity to Injustice Questionnaire. To measure self-esteem Rosenberg´s Self-Esteem Scalewas used and personality traits were measured by the NEO-FFI. Rotter´s Internality-ExternalityScale was used to measure the locus of control. The correlation analysis showed that personalitytraits, locus of control and self-esteem correlate with sensitivity to injustice. Hierarchical regres-sion analyses revealed that the personality traits explain 30% of cognitive level of sensitivity toinjustice variance. Adding locus of control and self-esteem to the predictors increased the vari-ance explained by the model by 4%. The Big five traits explained 10% of the emotional level of sensitivity to injustice variance, locus of control and self-esteem explained additional 5%. More-over, interaction analysis shows that internal locus of control acts as a buffer against the increaseof unjust events perceived by a person with high neuroticism and antagonism.
 Key words
: sensitivity to injustice, big five personality traits, locus of control, self-esteem
Situations of social injustice are a part of everyday life and perception of injustice arekey elements in everyday social interactions.This perception of injustice occurs usuallyafter the requirements and demands of oth-ers have been disrupted. Therefore, severalsocial psychologists have proposed that people may not only differ in their tolerancevs. sensitivity to physical stimuli, frustration,ambiguity, reward, and punishment, but alsoin their tolerance vs. sensitivity to moral normviolation and injustice (e.g., Dar, Resh, 2001;Lovaš, Wolt, 2002, etc.). The tendency to perceive a person’s behavior as unjust or self as an object of unjust treatment by other  people has been denoted as sensitivity toinjustice (Lovaš, 1995). Sensitivity to injus-tice was defined as a tendency to perceiveother people’s behavior toward self as un- just and to react to this event as to injustice.People differ greatly in how sensitively theyreact when faced with a potential injusticeand their disposition to perceive a given pro-cedure or distribution as unjust is consis-tent. While some do not take notice at all,others react with extreme anger and attack tohelp a victim or to rebuke an offender. Peoplealso differ in how injustice-sensitive they are
 
28
 
STUDIA PSYCHOLOGICA, 53, 2011, 1
either as victims or as observers. Whereasobserver sensitivity is positively related tocooperative behavior, victim sensitivity pro-motes antisocial and egoistic behavior (Gollwitzer et al., 2009; see also Rothmund,Gollwitzer, 2008; Schloesser, 2008). Thesedifferences are stable across time and gener-alize across a wide range of cases of injus-tice (Schmitt
 
et al
.
, 2009; Lovaš, 1995;Schmitt, Dörfel, 1999). Put differently, sensi-tivity to injustice is assumed to be a
cogni-tive style
- the consistent way individualsthink, perceive and remember information, or their preferred approach to perceive and re-act in situation of social injustice.Previous findings have confirmed the re-lationship between the frequency of unjustevents and the frequency of intensive anger (Lovaš, 1995). Moreover, anxious and angry persons described higher occurrence of un-fair behavior and also a correspondinglyhigher frequency of anger as a reaction toinjustice (Lovaš, Pirhačová, 1996). The nega-tive affective states are caused by eventsconsidered unjust. This unfair behavior isreflected in the emotional sphere of person-ality and such kind of situations consideredto be unjust generate especially anger, irrita-tion, enmity, resistance and antipathy(Pirhačová, 1997). The results of the researchconducted by Lovaš and Wolt (2002) on asample of 128 secondary school studentsimply that students who are more aggres-sive, egocentric, suspicious, mistrustful,immersed in their own thoughts and intro-spective, harboring feelings of misunder-standing and unfair treatment, are more sen-sitive to injustice. Subsequently, Ďuroškaand Lovaš (2002) investigated connectionof sensitivity to injustice in interpersonalrelations and interpersonal behavioral traitsaccording to structural model of J.S.Wiggins. The results proved a higher mea-sure of sensitivity to injustice (the frequencyof perceived unjust events) in submissiveand introvert individuals. The perception of frequency of occurrence of situations evok-ing injustice increased statistically signifi-cantly also with prominence of manifesta-tions of arrogance.These findings have confirmed that per-sonality is important for understanding of social-cognitive processes which are usedin situations of social injustice, because people perceive social situations congruentwith their characteristics (Snyder, Gangestad,1982). Personality is often defined as struc-tured individual differences organized to as-sist a person and his/her adaptation to theenvironment. One widely accepted approachto conceptualizing and measuring personal-ity traits is the Big Five (McCrae, Costa, 1997).Extensive structural analyses of the naturallanguage of trait descriptors (e.g., Goldberg,1992; McCrae, Costa, 1985, etc.) consistentlyhave revealed five broad factors: neuroticism(vs. emotional stability), extraversion, con-scientiousness, agreeableness, and open-ness to experience (imagination, intellect, or culture). Personality traits as genetically de-termined system of cognitive processes thatdecide how situations are perceived and con-sequently reacted to, may predominantly af-fect sensitivity to injustice. On theoreticalgrounds, two factors of the Big Five, whichmay account for sensitivity to injustice, areneuroticism and antagonism (the opposite pole of agreeableness). The agreeableness(Ruisel, Halama, 2007) describes people whoare directed toward interpersonal relation-ships and the needs of others. The facets of agreeableness include trust, straightforward-ness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and ten-der-mindedness. The opposite pole of agree-
 
STUDIA PSYCHOLOGICA, 53, 2011, 1
29
ableness is antagonism. Those high in an-tagonism tend to mistrust and have a lowregard for others, and, in turn, they act inways designed to exclude or snub those whoare perceived as disliked or inferior. The neu-roticism (Ruisel, Halama, 2007) is character-ized by those who have a tendency to expe-rience negative affectivity and psychologi-cal distress. The facets of neuroticism includeanxiety, angry hostility, depression, self-con-sciousness, and impulsiveness. Neurotic in-dividuals are ineffective in their attempts tocope with stress and are prone to engage inirrational thought. By contrast, those whoare low in neuroticism are more emotionallystable and calm and adapt well to stressfulsituations. Previous findings have demon-strated that high agreeable persons respondto interpersonal conflict more constructively(Graziano, Jensen-Campbell, Hair, 1996;Jensen-Campbell, Graziano, 2001), and work harder to suppress negative emotions dur-ing social interaction (Tobin
 
et al
.
, 2000) in part because they are able to control frustra-tion caused by other people. Moreover,agreeableness is also believed to be a factor of personality that reflects an individual’smotivation to maintain harmonious interper-sonal relations, and to minimize interper-sonal conflicts (Jensen-Campbell, Graziano,2001). Results obtained by Schmitt andMohiyeddini (1996) suggest that individu-als high in sensitivity to injustice reactedwith stronger resentment to a natural depri-vation of a desired outcome than subjectslow in justice sensitivity. Subsequently,Schmitt et al. (2005) confirmed the correla-tion between sensitivity to injustice and neu-roticism according to the five factor modelof personality traits. The authors suggestthat individuals with high level of sensitiv-ity to injustice are emotionally vulnerableand this vulnerability makes them monitor their environment for threats. This interpre-tation is consistent with results of the re-search conducted by Žitný (2007; see alsoBekk, Baumert, Spoerrle, 2008) who investi-gated mutual relationships between the per-sonality structure with the Big Five model,irrational beliefs in thinking and sensitivityto injustice. The results showed that irratio-nal beliefs in thinking and personality traits(neuroticism, antagonism - the opposite poleof agreeableness) are in positive relationshipwith sensitivity to injustice. Based on thesefindings, individuals with high sensitivity toinjustice are more vulnerable to injustice andneed higher justice standards in order to feelsafe and therefore, an injustice-sensitive in-dividual will probably invest more effort inrestoring justice than an insensitive indi-vidual even if both evaluate a given situa-tion as equally unfair.Individuals who differ in sensitivity to in- justice also differ in what they think oughtto be done and in what they believe is actu-ally being done in terms of justice, thereforeanother equally important mechanism of so-cial-cognitive processes which are used insituations of social injustice may be person-ality variables: locus of control and self-esteem. These constructs are consideredas socially learned and self-developed lifeattitudes. Internal locus of control is definedas the perception that events are contingenton one’s own behavior or one’s own perma-nent characteristics, while external control ischaracterized by the feeling that outcomesare more a result of fate, luck, chance, or control of powerful others or are unpredict-able due to the complexity of situations (Rotter,1990).Individuals with an internal locus of con-trol typically engage in proactive and adap-

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