Volume 39, Issue 2 p. 19-40

It Could Be Worse: Selective Evaluation as a Response to Victimization

Dr. Shelley E. Taylor

Corresponding Author

Dr. Shelley E. Taylor

University of California, Los Angeles

Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024.Search for more papers by this author
Joanne V. Wood

Joanne V. Wood

University of California, Los Angeles

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Rosemary R. Lichtman

Rosemary R. Lichtman

University of California, Los Angeles

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First published: Summer 1983
Citations: 306

Abstract

A theory of victims' responses to their victimization, termed Selective Evaluation, is proposed. It is maintained that the perception that one is a victim and the belief that others perceive one as a victim are aversive. Victims react to this aversive state by selectively evaluating themselves and their situation in ways that are self-enhancing. Five mechanisms of selective evaluation that minimize victimization are proposed and discussed: making social comparisons with less fortunate others (i.e., downward comparison); selectively focusing on attributes that make one appear advantaged; creating hypothetical, worse worlds; construing benefit from the victimizing event; and manufacturing normative standards of adjustment that make one's own adjustment appear exceptional. The theory is integrated with the existing literature on victimization, and possible functions of selective evaluation are discussed.