People confront social inequality and unfairness every day. Intuitively, one might think that instances of unfairness would, in the words of social activist and psychologist Morton Deutsch, "awaken a sense of injustice," and that people would work hard to rectify unfairness. Yet mobilizing social change is notoriously difficult.

Despite widely touted egalitarian ideals, inequality and unfairness does not always spark the desire for change. My program of research investigates how and why social inequality is maintained, examining processes at both individual and institutional levels.

Ultimately my work examining how inequality is maintained at individual and institutional levels provides insight into how to promote a variety of benefits: social change, redress, resilience, and re-engagement.


Difficulties awakening the sense of injustice and overcoming oppression: On the soporific effects of system justification.

In P. Coleman (Ed.), Conflict, interdependence, and justice: The intellectual legacy of Morton Deutsch

Gaucher, D., & Jost, J. (2011).

Morton Deutsch (Social Justice Research, 19, 7–41, 2006) identifies "awakening a sense of injustice" as a necessary precursor of social change. Building on Deutsch's theorizing, we propose that system justification, the motivation to defend and justify existing social, economic, and political institutions, and to derogate or dismiss alternatives to the status quo (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, Political Psychology, 25, 881–920, 2004), operates as an obstacle to awakening the sense of injustice. In this chapter, we summarize recent research findings illustrating the soporific effects of system justification motivation, that is, the ways in which it inhibits the awakening of a sense of injustice. Furthermore, we observe that social change is most likely to be embraced when it is system-sanctioned and therefore imbued with the legitimacy of the overarching social system. Although disruptive social protest may sometimes be necessary, broad system-level changes may be more readily accomplished through interventions and appeals that do not directly challenge the status quo, but instead garner psychological support through their association with the current system.

View full publication Share your insights

Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 109- 128

Gaucher, D., Friesen, J., & Kay, A. C. (2011).

Abstract: Social dominance theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) contends that institutional-level mechanisms exist that reinforce and perpetuate existing group-based inequalities, but very few such mechanisms have been empirically demonstrated. We propose that gendered wording (i.e., masculine- and feminine-themed words, such as those associated with gender stereotypes) may be a heretofore unacknowledged, institutional-level mechanism of inequality maintenance. Employing both archival and experimental analyses, the present research demonstrates that gendered wording commonly employed in job recruitment materials can maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated the existence of subtle but systematic wording differences within a randomly sampled set of job advertisements. Results indicated that job advertisements for male-dominated areas employed greater masculine wording (i.e., words associated with male stereotypes, such as leader, competitive, dominant) than advertisements within female-dominated areas. No difference in the presence of feminine wording (i.e., words associated with female stereotypes, such as support, understand, interpersonal) emerged across male- and female-dominated areas. Next, the consequences of highly masculine wording were tested across 3 experimental studies. When job advertisements were constructed to include more masculine than feminine wording, participants perceived more men within these occupations (Study 3), and importantly, women found these jobs less appealing (Studies 4 and 5). Results confirmed that perceptions of belongingness (but not perceived skills) mediated the effect of gendered wording on job appeal (Study 5). The function of gendered wording in maintaining traditional gender divisions, implications for gender parity, and theoretical models of inequality are discussed.

View full publication Share your insights

Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to view what is as what should be

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 421-434

Kay, A. C. Gaucher, D., Peach, J. M., Friesen, J., Laurin, K., Zanna, M. P., & Spencer, S. J. (2009).

Abstract: How powerful is the status quo in determining people's social ideals? We propose (a) that people engage in injunctification, that is, a motivated tendency to construe the current status quo as the most desirable and reasonable state of affairs (i.e., as the most representative of how things should be); (b) that this tendency is driven, at least in part, by people's desire to justify their sociopolitical systems; and (c) that injunctification has profound implications for the maintenance of inequality and societal change. Four studies, across a variety of domains, provided supportive evidence. When the motivation to justify the sociopolitical system was experimentally heightened, participants injunctified extant (a) political power (Study 1), (b) public funding policies (Study 2), and (c) unequal gender demographics in the political and business spheres (Studies 3 and 4, respectively). It was also demonstrated that this motivated phenomenon increased derogation of those who act counter to the status quo (Study 4). Theoretical implications for system justification theory, stereotype formation, affirmative action, and the maintenance of inequality are discussed.

View full publication Share your insights

Why does the "mental shotgun" fire system-justifying bullets?

Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37, 489

Gaucher, D., & Jost, J. (2014).

Abstract: We suggest that people privilege explanations relying on inherent rather than contingent factors not only because of an innate cognitive tendency to monitor reality, but because doing so satisfies the desire to perceive the societal status quo as legitimate. In support, we describe experimental studies linking the activation of system justification motivation to the endorsement of inherence-based (essentialist) explanations.

View full publication Share your insights

Stability and the justification of social inequality

European Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 246-254

Laurin, K, Gaucher, D., & Kay, A.C. (2013).

Abstract: Modern society is rife with inequality. People's interpretations of these inequalities, however, vary considerably: Different people can interpret, for example, the existing gender gap in wages as being the result of systemic discrimination, or as being the fair and natural result of genuine differences between men and women. Here, we examine one factor that may help explain differing interpretations of existing social inequalities: perceptions of system stability. System justification theory proposes that people are often motivated to rationalize and justify the systems within which they operate, legitimizing whatever social inequalities are present within them. We draw on theories and evidence of rationalization more broadly to predict that people should be most likely to legitimize inequalities in their systems when they perceive those systems as stable and unchanging. In one study, participants who witnessed stability, rather than change, in the domain of gender equality in business subsequently reported less willingness to support programs designed to redress inequalities in completely unrelated domains. In a second study, exposure to the mere concept of stability, via a standard priming procedure, led participants to spontaneously produce legitimizing, rather than blaming, explanations for existing gender inequality in their country. This effect, however, emerged only among politically liberal participants. These findings contribute to an emerging body of research that aims to identify the conditions that promote, and those which prevent, system‐justifying tendencies.

View full publication Share your insights

The role of attitudes in migration

In D. Albarracin & B. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of attitudes: Vol. 2 (pp. 455-487) Abingdon, UK: Routledge

Esses, V.M., Hamilton, L. K., & Gaucher, D. (2018).

Abstract: Immigration is changing the global landscape. Worldwide, there are currently more than 244 million immigrants—people living on a relatively permanent basis in a country other than the one in which they were born—an increase of over 40% in the last 15 years (United Nations, 2016a). This number includes more than 22 million refugees (individuals who have been formally recognized as having fled their country of residence because of a well-founded fear of persecution, armed conflict, violence, or war) and close to three million asylum seekers (individuals who have claimed refugee status and are waiting for their claim to be evaluated; UNHCR, 2017). Of note, the number of refugees across the globe has been described as the largest since the end of the Second World War (UNHCR, 2017).

View full publication Share your insights

The global refugee crisis: Empirical evidence and policy implications for improving public attitudes and facilitating refugee resettlement

Social Issues and Policy Review, 11, 78-123.

Esses, V., Hamilton, L., & Gaucher, D. (2017).

Abstract: The number of refugees across the globe is at an alarming high and is expected to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. As a result, finding durable solutions for refugees has become a major challenge worldwide. The literature reviewed and policy implications discussed in this article are based on the premise that one of the major solutions to the refugee crisis must be refugee resettlement in new host countries. For such a solution to succeed, however, requires relatively favorable attitudes by members of host societies, protection of the well‐being of refugees, and effective integration of refugees into new host countries. In this context, we begin by reviewing the literature on determinants of public attitudes toward refugees, the acculturation of refugees in host societies, and factors affecting refugee mental health, all of which are directly relevant to the success of the resettlement process. We then turn our attention to the policy implications of these literatures and discuss strategies for improving public attitudes toward refugees and refugee resettlement in host countries; for improving the resettlement process to reduce mental health challenges; and for supporting the long‐term acculturation and integration of refugees in their new homes.

View full publication Share your insights

Compensatory rationalizations and the resolution of everyday undeserved events

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 109-118

Gaucher, D., Hafer, C., Kay, A. C., & Davidenko, N. (2010).

Abstract: People prefer to perceive the world as just; however, the everyday experience of undeserved events challenges this perception. The authors suggest that one way people rationalize these daily experiences of unfairness is by means of a compensatory bias. People make undeserved events more palatable by endorsing the notion that outcomes naturally balance out in the end—good, yet undeserved, outcomes will balance out bad outcomes, and bad undeserved outcomes will balance out good outcomes. The authors propose that compensatory biases manifest in people's interpretive processes (Study 1) and memory (Study 2). Furthermore, they provide evidence that people have a natural tendency to anticipate compensatory outcomes in the future, which, ironically, might lead them to perceive a current situation as relatively more fair (Study 3).These studies highlight an understudied means of justifying unfairness and elucidate the justice motive's power to affect people's construal of their social world.

View full publication Share your insights

Political solidarity: A theory and a measure

The Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 7, 726-765

Neufeld, K., Starzyk, K., & Gaucher, D. (2019).

Abstract: Political solidarity is often key to addressing societal injustice. Yet social and political psychology are without a common definition or comprehensive measure of this construct, complicating advancements in this burgeoning field. To address these gaps, we advance a novel understanding and measure of this construct. We conceptualized political solidarity as a construct consisting of three factors—allyship with a minority outgroup, a connection to their cause, and a commitment to working with them to achieve social change—that can emerge within and across social groups. Five studies empirically supported our conceptualization and measure; all participants were Canadian university students. In Study 1, 1,594 participants completed the initial 30-item pool. A series of exploratory factor analyses, along with indices of factor retention, supported the three-factor model. We retained three items per factor to create the 9-item Political Solidarity Measure (PSM). This three-factor model adequately fit Study 2 data (N = 275). In Study 3 (N = 268), we found evidence of the PSM’s convergent and discriminant validity. Studies 3 and 4 assessed the PSM’s retest stability in the medium-term (three to six months; Study 3) and short-term (a three-week period; Study 4; N = 126). Finally, we demonstrate the PSM’s predictive validity in Study 5 (N = 221). Controlling for modern racism, political orientation, and gender, PSM scores predicted collective action intentions and behavior benefitting the outgroup: Participants who reported higher political solidarity donated more to the outgroup’s cause and were more likely to agree to create a message of support.

View full publication Share your insights

Evoking a psychological sense of personal community connection increases support for all communities

Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 22, 530-548

Neufeld, K., Gaucher, D., Starzyk, K., & Boese, G. D. B. (2019).

Abstract: How can agents of social change increase public support for minority communities? In three studies, we demonstrate how heightened feelings of community connection can predict support for addressing injustice in minority communities. Community connection, when experimentally evoked (Study 1) or measured (Study 3), was associated with heightened support for the government addressing substandard conditions in an African American housing project (Studies 1 and 3) and Native American reservations (Study 1). Mediation analyses revealed that this effect emerges, at least in part, because of a heightened perceived value of all communities—not merely one’s own (Studies 1 and 3). One reason that stronger feelings of community connection lead to (Study 2) or are associated with (Study 3) greater valuing of communities is a strengthened superordinate community identity. We tested additional potential mediators of the community connection–support relationship; out-group identification mediated but outgroup attachment did not. Implications for social change are discussed.

View full publication Share your insights

Changes in the positivity of migrant stereotype content: How system-sanctioned pro-migrant ideology can affect public opinions of migrants

Social Psychological and Personality Science, 9, 223-233

Gaucher, D., Friesen, J. P., Neufeld, K., & Esses, V. (2018).

Abstract: Complementing well-established antecedents of anti-migrant opinion (e.g., threat), we investigated how system-sanctioned ideologies—that is, the collection of beliefs and values espoused by the government in power—are linked with migrant stereotypes. Using Canada as a case study, across three waves of national survey data (N = 1,080), we found that system-sanctioned pro-migrant ideologies corresponded with (relatively) more positive migrant stereotype content (i.e., increases in perceived warmth and competence). Moreover, controlling for other political ideologies, increases in migrant stereotype positivity were linked to people’s motivation to justify their sociopolitical systems, suggesting that system-sanctioned ideologies may be especially likely to influence the positivity of migrant stereotypes when people are motivated to justify their sociopolitical systems.

View full publication Share your insights

Can pejorative terms ever lead to positive social consequences? The case of SlutWalk

Language Sciences, 52, 121-130.

Gaucher, D., Hunt, B., & Sinclair, L. (2015)

Abstract: Critics of SlutWalk social movements claim that the term slut can never be empowering and that it is inherently derogatory. However, recent research suggests that the in-group can re-appropriate slurs successfully (e.g., Croom, 2013, Galinsky et al., 2013). In two experiments, we investigated whether the typically pejorative term slut can lead to positive social consequences when used in the context of a social justice movement. We exposed participants to the term slut and systematically varied the sex of the speaker (Study 1) and the context in which the slur was used (Studies 1 and 2). Women were less likely to endorse common rape myths after being exposed to slut in a supportive (i.e., SlutWalk march) relative to a nondescript context (i.e., yelled in the street), regardless of the sex of speaker (Study 1), and even when compared to baseline (i.e., absence of any mention of the term; Study 2). Moreover, within a supportive march context the use of the slur slut did not significantly lower women's feelings of empowerment relative to a slur-free women's march (Study 2). Taken together, results demonstrate that the slur slut is not inherently derogatory and can be re-appropriated under supportive march contexts. Implications for language re-appropriation in social demonstrations are discussed.

View full publication Share your insights

Framing reparation claims for crimes against humanity: a social psychological perspective

In J. Wemmers (Ed.), Reparations for crimes against humanity (pp. 113-124). New York, NY: Routledge.

Starzyk, K. B., Gaucher, D., Boese, G. D. B., & Neufeld, K. H. (2014).

Abstract: Crimes against humanity are acts of serious, widespread and systematic harm. Given their heinous nature, it seems people should unquestionably support reparations for such harms. Yet obtaining reparations for crimes against humanity can be difficult. Though most members of the public are usually willing to acknowledge at least some degree of wrongdoing, reparation campaigns are frequently met with indifference and sometimes actively opposed (Brooks 1999). In this chapter, we first describe how social psychologists aim to understand the causes of support for reparations; we then discuss the key theories (just world, system justification, and social identity) that organize much of social psychological research on reactions to intergroup harm and reparations. Finally, we provide suggestions for the design of reparation campaigns and highlight supporting research, much of it from our own work.

View full publication Share your insights

"The world isn’t fair": A system justification perspective on social stratification and inequality

In J. Dovidio & J. Simpson (Eds.), APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (pp. 317-340). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Jost J.T., Gaucher D., & Stern, C. (2013).

Abstract: We propose that the system justification motive drives individuals to exaggerate their system’s virtues, downplay its vices, and see the societal status quo as more fair and desirable than it actually is. This motive creates an inherently conservative tendency to maintain the status quo (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003; Kluegel & Smith, 1986). System justification processes can occur both consciously and unconsciously (e.g., see Ashburn-Nardo et al., 2003; Jost, Pelham, & Carvallo, 2002; Rudman, Feinberg, & Fairchild, 2002; Uhlmann, Dasgupta, Elgueta, Greenwald, & Swanson, 2002). The social systems that individuals are motivated to justify may be small in size and scope, such as (at the most micro level of analysis) relationship dyads and family units, or they may extend to formal and informal status hierarchies, institutional or organizational policies, and (at the most macro level of analysis) even entire nations or societies (e.g., Fiske, 2010; Kuang & Liu, 2012; Laurin et al., 2012; Wakslak, Jost, & Bauer, 2011). Jost and van der Toorn (2012) enumerated nine major postulates of system justification theory that have been investigated empirically. The remainder of this chapter outlines these postulates and discusses at least some of the research findings bearing on each postulate. Following a review of evidence for each of the major postulates of system justification theory, the chapter considers broader societal implications of the system justification motive.

View full publication Share your insights

Political conservatives’ affinity for obedience to authority is loyal, not blind

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 1205-121

Frimer, J. A., Gaucher, D., & Schaefer, N. K. (2014).

Abstract: Liberals and conservatives disagree about obeying authorities, with conservatives holding the more positive views. We suggest that reactions to conservative authorities, rather than to obedience itself, are responsible for the division. Past findings that conservatives favor obedience uniformly confounded obedience with conservative authorities. We break down obedience to authority into its constituent parts to test the divisiveness of each part. The concepts of obedience (Study 1) and authority (Study 2) recruited inferences of conservative authorities, conflating results of simple, seemingly face valid tests of their divisiveness. These results establish necessary features of a valid test, to which Study 3 conforms. Conservatives have the more positive moral views of obedience only when the authorities are conservative (e.g., commanding officers); liberals do when the authorities are liberal (e.g., environmentalists). The two camps agree about obeying ideologically neutral authorities (e.g., office managers). Obedience itself is not ideologically divisive.

View full publication Share your insights

Can a psychological theory of ideological differences explain contextual variability in the contents of political attitudes?

Psychological Inquiry, 20, 183-188

Jost, J., Krochik, M., Gaucher, D., & Hennes, E. P. (2009).

Abstract: In this brief reply, we explore the ways in which a psychological theory of ideology as motivated social cognition (e.g., Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003a, 2003b) can explain several distinct but related empirical phenomena, including why (a) epistemic and existential needs to reduce uncertainty and threat would be positively associated with social or cultural conservatism in virtually all societal contexts and yet be associated with support for either capitalism or socialism, depending upon the local context; (b) conservatives eventually come to support policy positions that were once considered to be liberal or progressive; (c) liberals are more likely than conservatives to exhibit cognitive complexity and engage in “value trade-offs” between equality and freedom; and (d) time pressure and cognitive load produce “conservative shifts” in political opinion, even among liberal respondents. By clarifying the similarities and differences between the two core dimensions of Left-Right ideology (i.e., advocating vs. resisting social change and rejecting vs. accepting inequality) and highlighting the role of status quo acceptance in conservative ideology, we hope to demonstrate that a psychological theory of Left-Right differences can account for contextual variability in the contents of political attitudes.

View full publication Share your insights

Perceived regard explains self-esteem differences in expressivity

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1144-1156

Gaucher, D., Wood, J. V., Stinson, D. A., Forest, A. L., Holmes, J. G., & Logel, C. (2012).

Abstract: Baumeister, Tice, and Hutton proposed that individuals with low self-esteem (LSEs) adopt a more cautious, self-protective self-presentational style than individuals with high self-esteem (HSEs). The authors predicted that LSEs' self-protectiveness leads them to be less expressive--less revealing of their thoughts and feelings--with others than HSEs, and that this self-esteem difference is mediated by their perceptions of the interaction partner's regard for them. Two correlational studies supported these predictions (Studies 1 and 2). Moreover, LSEs became more expressive when their perceived regard was experimentally heightened--when they imagined speaking to someone who was unconditionally accepting rather than judgmental (Study 3) and when their perceptions of regard were increased through Marigold, Holmes, and Ross's compliment-reframing task (Study 4). These findings suggest that LSEs' expressiveness can be heightened through interventions that reduce their concerns about social acceptance.

View full publication Share your insights

The regulatory function of self-esteem: Testing the epistemic and acceptance signaling systems

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 993-1013

Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Holmes, J. G., Wood, J. V., Forest, A.L., Gaucher, D., & Kath, J. (2010).

Abstract: The authors draw on sociometer theory (e.g., Leary, 2004) and self-verification theory (e.g., Swann, 1997) to propose an expanded model of the regulatory function of self-esteem. The model suggests that people not only possess an acceptance signaling system that indicates whether relational value is high or low but also possess an epistemic signaling system that indicates whether social feedback is consistent or inconsistent with chronic perceived relational value (i.e., global self-esteem). One correlational study and 5 experiments, with diverse operationalizations of social feedback, demonstrated that the epistemic signaling system responds to self-esteem consistent or inconsistent relational-value feedback with increases or decreases in epistemic certainty. Moreover, Studies 3–6 demonstrated that the acceptance and epistemic signaling systems respond uniquely to social feedback. Finally, Studies 5 and 6 provide evidence that the epistemic signaling system is part of a broader self-regulatory system: Self-esteem inconsistent feedback caused cognitive efforts to decrease the discrepancy between self-views and feedback and caused depleted self-regulatory capacity on a subsequent self-control task.

View full publication Share your insights

Deconstructing the "reign of error:" Interpersonal warmth explains the self-fulfilling prophecy of anticipated acceptance

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1165-1178

Stinson, D. A., Cameron, J. J., Wood, J. V., Gaucher, D., & Holmes, J. G. (2009).

Abstract: People's expectations of acceptance often come to create the acceptance or rejection they anticipate. The authors tested the hypothesis that interpersonal warmth is the behavioral key to this acceptance prophecy: If people expect acceptance, they will behave warmly, which in turn will lead other people to accept them; if they expect rejection, they will behave coldly, which will lead to less acceptance. A correlational study and an experiment supported this model. Study 1 confirmed that participants' warm and friendly behavior was a robust mediator of the acceptance prophecy compared to four plausible alternative explanations. Study 2 demonstrated that situational cues that reduced the risk of rejection also increased socially pessimistic participants' warmth and thus improved their social outcomes.

View full publication Share your insights

Sex, "lies," and videotape: Self-esteem and successful presentation of gender roles

Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 503 - 509

Stinson, D. A., Gaucher, D., Wood, J. V., Reddoch, L., Holmes, J. G, & Little, C. G. (2012).

Abstract: When presenting themselves to others, people attempt to create the impression that they possess socially desired traits. Verbally claiming to possess such traits is relatively simple but making good on one’s promises by actually behaving in kind is more challenging. In particular, lower self-esteem individuals’ relational insecurity may undermine their ability to present themselves in a socially desired manner. The present research used a behavioral coding method to test these hypotheses. Participants filmed a brief introductory video in an evaluative, first impression situation. Independent sets of observers then coded participants’ verbal, nonverbal, and global self-presentations on two dimensions: communion/femininity and agency/masculinity. Results revealed that for both sexes, self-esteem was unrelated to participants’ ability to “talk the talk” by verbally describing themselves in a socially valued and gender-role specific manner but was predictive of participants’ ability to “walk the walk” by actually behaving in kind.

View full publication Share your insights

Religious belief as compensatory control

Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 38-48

Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., McGregor, I., & Nash, K. (2010).

Abstract: The authors review experimental evidence that religious conviction can be a defensive source of compensatory control when personal or external sources of control are low. They show evidence that (a) belief in religious deities and secular institutions can serve as external forms of control that can compensate for manipulations that lower personal control and (b) religious conviction can also serve as compensatory personal control after experimental manipulations that lower other forms of personal or external control. The authors review dispositional factors that differentially orient individuals toward external or personal varieties of compensatory control and conclude that compensatory religious conviction can be a flexible source of personal and external control for relief from the anxiety associated with random and uncertain experiences.

View full publication Share your insights

Compensatory control: Achieving order through the mind, our institutions, and the heavens

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 264-268

Kay, A. C., Whitson, J. A., Gaucher, D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2009).

Abstract: We propose that people protect the belief in a controlled, non-random world by imbuing their social, physical, and metaphysical environments with order and structure when their sense of personal control is threatened. We demonstrate that when personal control is threatened, people can preserve a sense of order by (a) perceiving patterns in noise or adhering to superstitions and conspiracies, (b) defending the legitimacy of the sociopolitical institutions that offer control, or (c) believing in an interventionist God. We also present evidence that these processes of compensatory control help people cope with the anxiety and discomfort that lacking personal control fuels, that it is lack of personal control specifically and not general threat or negativity that drives these processes, and that these various forms of compensatory control are ultimately substitutable for one another. Our model of compensatory control offers insight into a wide variety of phenomena, from prejudice to the idiosyncratic rituals of professional athletes to societal rituals around weddings, graduations, and funerals.

View full publication Share your insights

System justification: Experimental evidence, its contextual nature, and implications for social change

British Journal of Social Psychology, 58, 2, 315-339

Friesen, J., Laurin, K., Shepherd, S., Gaucher, D. & Kay, A. (2018)

Abstract: We review conceptual and empirical contributions to system justification theory over the last fifteen years, emphasizing the importance of an experimental approach and consideration of context. First, we review the indirect evidence of the system justification motive via complimentary stereotyping. Second, we describe injunctification as direct evidence of a tendency to view the extant status quo (the way things are) as the way things should be. Third, we elaborate on system justification's contextual nature and the circumstances, such as threat, dependence, inescapability, and system confidence, which are likely to elicit defensive bolstering of the status quo and motivated ignorance of critical social issues. Fourth, we describe how system justification theory can increase our understanding of both resistance to and acceptance of social change, as a change moves from proposed, to imminent, to established. Finally, we discuss how threatened systems shore up their authority by co‐opting legitimacy from other sources, such as governments that draw on religious concepts, and the role of institutional‐level factors in perpetuating the status quo.

View full publication Share your insights