Back in the 1960s, social psychologist Melvin Lerner coined the term "just world hypothesis" to describe the tendency to see the fortunate as deserving of good fortune while victims of misfortune are seen as deserving their fate. Lerner summarized 15 years of research into this phenomenon in his 1980 book, The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion. In his book, Lerner offers considerable evidence that after initially experiencing pangs of sympathy for those who are suffering, there is a tendency to develop negative views of persons who are suffering.
What does this have to do with Sharon Stone and John Hagee? They've both given us examples of attributions about victims of natural catastrophes based on the just world hypothesis. Hagee claimed that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for a planned "homosexual parade" in New Orleans and, now, Sharon Stone speculates that the victims of the recent Chinese earthquake could be experiencing the effects of karma.
"I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else," Stone said Thursday during a Cannes Film Festival red-carpet interview with Hong Kong's Cable Entertainment News. "And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?"