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The Multidimensional World View Model

Guy Doron

Janoff-Bulman (1989, 1991) proposed an influential world view model that regards individuals' perceptions of the world from three analytically distinct aspects, namely; (a) the benevolence of the world; (b) the meaningfulness of the world; and, (c) the worthiness of self (see figure 1). The first aspect includes assumptions regarding the perceived benevolence of people and the benevolence of the impersonal world. The benevolence of people refers to the degree that individuals judge their social world as helpful and caring. In contrast, the benevolence of the impersonal world pertains to the degree to which individuals judge the impersonal world as a positive or a negative environment.

world self
Benevolence of world
moral (justice)
Self worthiness

Figure 1: Janoff-Bulman world-view model

The second aspect in Janoff-Bulman's (1989, 1991) world-view model includes beliefs regarding the nature and meaningfulness of the world. These beliefs express the individual's understanding of "who gets what" in the world. Of these beliefs, two suggest consistency and predictability. The controllability belief provides predictability through preventative actions (i.e., "misfortune can be prevented through action"). Similarly, the justice belief provides predictability through the individual's moral character. In this case, peoples' moral constitution is assumed to predict consequences in the world (i.e, "if I am good, good things will happen"). In contrast, the randomness belief suggests there is no predictability in the world. Thus, Janoff-Bulman's model suggests three separate dimensions by which individuals may understand and assess their control in the world.

The third aspect of world assumptions in Janoff-Bulman's (1989, 1991) model of world-view pertains to the individual's personal evaluation of their self worthiness. While the controllability and justice beliefs refer to what individuals should expect in the world, the worthiness-of-self category refers to the individual's personal evaluation of what they deserve in such a world. In particular, self-controllability pertains to whether individuals regard themselves as active in the prevention of misfortune such that they "almost always make an effort to prevent bad things from happening". Self-deservingness relates to the individuals' perceptions and assessment of their character. Finally, self-luck refers to the extent that individuals perceive themselves as being lucky. Thus, Janoff-Bulman (1989, 1991) argued that an individual's feelings of vulnerability in the world also depend on self-evaluation in the context of their world-view assumptions.

In sum, Janoff-Bulman (1989, 1991) suggested that understanding personal theories of the world could lead to a better understanding of individual vulnerability to psychopathology. Indeed, research has suggested that emotional reactions to a range of stressful and traumatic events may be related to prior beliefs and basic assumptions, and that such experiences may trigger or change these assumptions (e.g., Boelen, Kip, Voorsluijs, & van den Bout, 2004; Janoff-Bulman; 1989; Kaiser, Vick, & Major, 2004).

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