System-Justifying Ideologies

910 words (4 pages) Essay

11th Sep 2017 Psychology Reference this

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Abstract

This paper is a synopsis on literature regarding system-justifying beliefs. In order to justify and rationalize the way things are, so that existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be perceived as fair and legitimate, many individuals adopt system justification. Different ideologies, such as protestant work ethnic and meritocratic ideology, contribute to the legitimization of existing social arrangements. Although many policies go against lower status groups’ personal and collective interests, higher system-justifying beliefs are seen in these lower status groups. An examination of implicit attitudes towards in groups and out groups confirms that lower status groups have higher system justification levels. This leads to lower subjective wellbeing and naturally high stress levels[PS1].

System Justification

In the wake of a controversial 2016 presidential election, disputes about a just and rational social, economic, and political system in America have been at an all time high. System justification theory was created in order to investigate why and how people uphold the social systems that affect them (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004; Jost & Hunyady, 2005). System justification is a process through which group differences in outcomes are legitimized (Jost & Banaji, 1994). Consistent with system justification theory is the notion that people have the psychological need to believe that the system they live in is just and fair, which results in the justification of unequal relationships among groups in society (O’Brien et al., 2012).

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Examples of system justification beliefs (SJB) are the belief that success reflects merit or the belief that success is based on hard work. This implies that groups who have higher status may be more meritorious than groups that have lower status. To date, the most direct evidence that group status affects perceptions of personal entitlement comes from research on gender differences in entitlement to pay (see Major, 1994 for a review). Prior research suggests that men have a higher sense of entitlement to pay than do women and that is especially true among men and women with strongly endorsed SJB’s. Research also showed that after unscrambling sentences that prime SJBs (e.g. “I feel that people get what they deserve” and “Persistence leads to success”) men reported that they deserved more money and gave themselves more money than did women. Furthermore, men primed with meritocratic beliefs gave themselves more money than men in a control group who were not primed with such beliefs; women tended to show the reverse effect, although not reaching statistical significance (O’Brien, Major & Gilbert, 2012). These findings suggest that beliefs about the system being just are associated with higher self-reported and behavioral components of pay entitlement for higher status groups, such as men, and lower entitlement among low status groups, such as women[PS2].

Among low status groups in America, it is quite evident that there is great inequality compared to higher status groups. According to the National Index of Violence and Harm, in 2007 the poverty rates for Blacks and Latinos in the United States was almost one in four. Social justification beliefs help people cope with the “unwelcoming realities” of the world by justifying the hierarchy within their society (Jost, Hunyady, 2005; Ashburn-Nardo et al., 2003). This justification is done even when there are considerable costs to individuals and their fellow group members (Jost & Hunyady, 2005).

There are many different system-justifying ideologies. These ideologies serve a similar function of legitimizing existing social arrangements. One of these ideologies is known as protestant work ethnic. This ideology follows the logic that people have a responsibility to “work hard and avoid leisure activities” (Jost and Hunyady, 2005). Using protestant work ethic ideology, it can be argued that lower status groups are not working as hard and therefore maintaining their lower status in society. A similar ideology is meritocratic ideology, which argues that the system “rewards individual ability and motivation, so success is an indicator of personal deservingness” (Jost, Pelham, et al., 2003). The ideology can be used to dispute that lower status groups are less motivated and have less ability; therefore their “lack of success” is due to a lack of personal deservingness. The last ideology to be discussed is called power distance. This ideology is defined as the belief that inequality is a natural part of social order, which legitimizes large power differences (Jost, Blount, et al., 2003). By outlining that social inequality is part of a natural social order, lower status groups will have a harder time changing the existing social hierarchy. All of these ideologies are adopted by people in order to justify the status quo in our society.

Abstract

This paper is a synopsis on literature regarding system-justifying beliefs. In order to justify and rationalize the way things are, so that existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be perceived as fair and legitimate, many individuals adopt system justification. Different ideologies, such as protestant work ethnic and meritocratic ideology, contribute to the legitimization of existing social arrangements. Although many policies go against lower status groups’ personal and collective interests, higher system-justifying beliefs are seen in these lower status groups. An examination of implicit attitudes towards in groups and out groups confirms that lower status groups have higher system justification levels. This leads to lower subjective wellbeing and naturally high stress levels[PS1].

System Justification

In the wake of a controversial 2016 presidential election, disputes about a just and rational social, economic, and political system in America have been at an all time high. System justification theory was created in order to investigate why and how people uphold the social systems that affect them (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004; Jost & Hunyady, 2005). System justification is a process through which group differences in outcomes are legitimized (Jost & Banaji, 1994). Consistent with system justification theory is the notion that people have the psychological need to believe that the system they live in is just and fair, which results in the justification of unequal relationships among groups in society (O’Brien et al., 2012).

Examples of system justification beliefs (SJB) are the belief that success reflects merit or the belief that success is based on hard work. This implies that groups who have higher status may be more meritorious than groups that have lower status. To date, the most direct evidence that group status affects perceptions of personal entitlement comes from research on gender differences in entitlement to pay (see Major, 1994 for a review). Prior research suggests that men have a higher sense of entitlement to pay than do women and that is especially true among men and women with strongly endorsed SJB’s. Research also showed that after unscrambling sentences that prime SJBs (e.g. “I feel that people get what they deserve” and “Persistence leads to success”) men reported that they deserved more money and gave themselves more money than did women. Furthermore, men primed with meritocratic beliefs gave themselves more money than men in a control group who were not primed with such beliefs; women tended to show the reverse effect, although not reaching statistical significance (O’Brien, Major & Gilbert, 2012). These findings suggest that beliefs about the system being just are associated with higher self-reported and behavioral components of pay entitlement for higher status groups, such as men, and lower entitlement among low status groups, such as women[PS2].

Among low status groups in America, it is quite evident that there is great inequality compared to higher status groups. According to the National Index of Violence and Harm, in 2007 the poverty rates for Blacks and Latinos in the United States was almost one in four. Social justification beliefs help people cope with the “unwelcoming realities” of the world by justifying the hierarchy within their society (Jost, Hunyady, 2005; Ashburn-Nardo et al., 2003). This justification is done even when there are considerable costs to individuals and their fellow group members (Jost & Hunyady, 2005).

There are many different system-justifying ideologies. These ideologies serve a similar function of legitimizing existing social arrangements. One of these ideologies is known as protestant work ethnic. This ideology follows the logic that people have a responsibility to “work hard and avoid leisure activities” (Jost and Hunyady, 2005). Using protestant work ethic ideology, it can be argued that lower status groups are not working as hard and therefore maintaining their lower status in society. A similar ideology is meritocratic ideology, which argues that the system “rewards individual ability and motivation, so success is an indicator of personal deservingness” (Jost, Pelham, et al., 2003). The ideology can be used to dispute that lower status groups are less motivated and have less ability; therefore their “lack of success” is due to a lack of personal deservingness. The last ideology to be discussed is called power distance. This ideology is defined as the belief that inequality is a natural part of social order, which legitimizes large power differences (Jost, Blount, et al., 2003). By outlining that social inequality is part of a natural social order, lower status groups will have a harder time changing the existing social hierarchy. All of these ideologies are adopted by people in order to justify the status quo in our society.

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