Observer Sensitivity and Early Radicalization to Violence Among Young People in Germany
Sara Jahnke, Carl Philipp Schröder, Laura-Romina Goede, Lena Lehmann, Luisa Hauff, Andreas Beelmann
Social Justice Research
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Personal sensitivity to injustice from either a victim or an observer perspective shapes political attitudes and actions. Yet, little is known about the link between justice sensitivity, particularly from an observer perspective, and early radicalization. We investigate the hypotheses that victim and observer sensitivity are differentially linked to political orientation and early radicalization outcomes among adolescents and young adults. We assessed political orientations, justice sensitivity, and early radicalization (as attitudes or intentions regarding illegal/violent political strategies) among 303 young activists (Study 1) and 3715 ninth graders (Study 2). Across both studies, observer sensitivity was linked to stronger left-wing orientations, while victim sensitivity predicted stronger right-wing orientations. Yet, findings with respect to early radicalization outcomes were mixed: Among young adult activists in Study 1, observer (but not victim) justice sensitivity positively predicted both legal activism intentions and radicalization. Among ninth graders in Study 2, on the other hand, general and right-wing radicalization were negatively associated with observer sensitivity and positively associated with victim sensitivity. The results indicate that the link between observer sensitivity and early radicalization can be positive or negative depending on the age of the sample and the political context. We discuss potential reasons for the conflicting results, as well as limitations and implications for future research.