The Meaning and Role of Ideology in System Justification and Resistance for High- and Low-Status People

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Abstract

In this article we explore how beliefs about system ideals and the achievement of those ideals differentially predict system justification among low- and high-status groups. Our goal was to reconcile how people can promote system ideals such as equal opportunities for all and at the same time recognize that group-based disparities are, in part, due to these unfulfilled ideals. Three studies examined whether people perceived a discrepancy between a system’s ideal goals and its achievement of those goals. Everyone endorsed these goal ideals more than they believed that the goals were being achieved; however, this discrepancy was larger for low-status people. The larger the perceived discrepancy, the more dissatisfied people were with the system and the more likely they were to support hierarchy-attenuating policies. Studies 2 and 3 also examined people’s motivation for endorsing goal ideals. People of all statuses endorsed system ideals to promote an ideal system more than to legitimize the actual system (Study 2); however, high-status people were slightly more likely to endorse system ideals to legitimize the actual system than low-status people (Study 3). In summary, low-status people were more likely than high-status people to recognize discrepancies between system goals and system outcomes, show dissatisfaction with the American system, and prefer policies that would attenuate extant hierarchies.

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