In P. Coleman (Ed.), Conflict, interdependence, and justice: The intellectual legacy of Morton
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
In D. Albarracin & B. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of attitudes: Vol. 2 (pp. 455-487) Abingdon, UK:
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).
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.