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Published on January 7, 2008

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System Justification: How Do We Know It’s Motivated?:  System Justification: How Do We Know It’s Motivated? John T. Jost New York University April 5, 2007 Morton Deutsch Award Ceremony A Merciful Mechanism?:  The poet W.H. Auden (1939): “There is a merciful mechanism in the human mind that prevents one from knowing how unhappy one is. One only realizes it if the unhappiness passes, and then one wonders how on earth one was ever able to stand it. If the factory workers once got out of factory life for six months, there would be a revolution such as the world has never seen.” A Merciful Mechanism? System Justification Theory:  System Justification Theory Ego-justification motive To defend, bolster, and rationalize the interests and esteem of the self Group-justification motive To defend, bolster, and rationalize the interests and status of the ingroup System-justification motive To defend, bolster, and rationalize the interests and legitimacy of the social system (e.g., dyads, families, institutions, hierarchies, organizations, societies) Jost, Banaji, & Nosek (2004) Slide5:  For members of advantaged groups, ego, group, and system justification motives are complementary System justification Group justification Ego justification + + + Jost, Burgess, & Mosso (2001) Slide6:  For members of disadvantaged groups, ego, group, and system justification motives are in conflict System justification Group justification Ego justification - - + Jost, Burgess, & Mosso (2001) Percent Agreeing that “Large Differences in Income are Legitimate and Necessary…” :  Percent Agreeing that “Large Differences in Income are Legitimate and Necessary…” Jost, Pelham, Sheldon, & Sullivan (2003) Evidence that System Justification is Motivated:  Evidence that System Justification is Motivated (I) Individual differences in motivational strength (II) Situational responses to system threat (III) Selective, biased information processing (IV) Properties of goal pursuit (I) Individual Differences:  (I) Individual Differences Self-deception, ideological motives associated with attitudes, behaviors supporting status quo Fair Market Ideology Scale:  Fair Market Ideology Scale “The free market system is a fair system.” “Common or ‘normal’ business practices must be fair, or they would not survive.” “Profitable businesses tend to be more morally responsible than unprofitable businesses.” “The most fair economic system is a market system in which everyone is allowed to independently pursue their own economic interests.” Jost, Blount, Pfeffer, & Hunyady (2003) Fair Market Ideology: Its Cognitive-Motivational Underpinnings:  Fair Market Ideology: Its Cognitive-Motivational Underpinnings Seven samples (MBA, non-MBA students) completed the FMI scale; significant predictors of FMI scores included: Self-deception (.20 ≤ r ≤ .33) Belief in a just world (.18 ≤ r ≤ .38) Political conservatism (.25 ≤ r ≤ .40) Economic system justification (.36 ≤ r ≤ .49) FMI scores predicted scandal minimization (Enron, Halliburton), r (115) = .36 Jost, Blount, Pfeffer, & Hunyady (2003) (II) Situational Effects:  (II) Situational Effects People respond defensively to threats directed at the status quo Support for System Authorities Before and After 9/11:  Support for System Authorities Before and After 9/11 Source: Gallup Organization An Experimental Paradigm: System Threat Manipulation :  An Experimental Paradigm: System Threat Manipulation These days, many people in the U.S. feel disappointed with the nation's condition. Many citizens feel that the country has reached a low point in terms of social, economic, and political factors. Ever since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 people do not feel as safe and secure as they used to, and there is a sense of uncertainty and pessimism regarding the country's future. Kay, Jost, & Young (2005) vs. System Affirmation (Low Threat):  vs. System Affirmation (Low Threat) These days, despite the difficulties the nation is facing, many people in the U.S. feel satisfied with the nation's condition. Many citizens feel that the country has reached a stable point in terms of social, economic, and political factors. People feel safer and securer than they used to, and there is a sense of confidence and optimism regarding the country's future. Kay, Jost, & Young (2005) Effects of System Threat in the Laboratory:  Effects of System Threat in the Laboratory Exposure to system threat passage does not affect individual or collective self-esteem, but it does increase: Ingroup favoritism among advantaged, outgroup favoritism among disadvantaged Ratings of the obese as lazy (and sociable) Ratings of the powerful as intelligent and independent (and unhappy) Stereotyping of Ashkenazi Jews as competent (but cold) and Sephardic Jews as warm (but incompetent) Jost, Kivetz, et al. (2005); Kay et al. (2005) Effects of System Threat in the Laboratory:  Ullrich & Cohrs (2007) Effects of System Threat in the Laboratory Exposure to terrorist threat passages increases scores on a German translation of Kay & Jost’s (2003) system justification scale… (III) Biased Judgment:  (III) Biased Judgment People engage in selective, biased information processing to reach system-justifying conclusions Motivated Processing of Pro-Meritocratic Information:  Motivated Processing of Pro-Meritocratic Information People see research evidence as stronger, more valid when it supports (vs. challenges) the “American Dream” This bias is enhanced: Among those who are chronically high (vs. low) on ESJ Among women Under system threat Selective cognitive elaboration mediated the bias Ledgerwood, Mandisodza, & Jost (in prep) Biased Information Processing Paradigm :  Biased Information Processing Paradigm Procedure adapted from Pomerantz, Chaiken, & Tordesillas (1995) Participants read and evaluate: One study concluding that hard work and determination lead to success (pro-meritocracy), another concluding there is no correlation (anti-meritocracy) For each study, participants read: Abstract, detailed methods & results 3 criticisms and 3 rebuttals Slide23:  Johnson & Greene (2002) tested whether the success of American adults was more influenced by their parents’ socioeconomic status, or by their own hard work and determination. In a national telephone survey of 843 adults in the workforce using a random-digit dialing procedure, they found that … Pro-Meritocracy Version a person’s own hard work and determination had a larger influence on a person’s success than parental income and social status. These findings support the reality of the American Dream. Anti-Meritocracy Version parental income and social status had a larger influence on a person’s success than a person’s own hard work and determination. These findings oppose the reality of the American Dream. Judged Quality of Evidence:  Judged Quality of Evidence t (114) = 4.38 , p < .001 Participants judged the same study procedure as “more convincing” and “well-conducted” when it supported the pro-meritocratic conclusion… Slide25:  F(1, 107) = 4.12, p < .05 Pro-Meritocratic Bias was Exacerbated by System Threat (IV) Properties of Goal Pursuit:  (IV) Properties of Goal Pursuit Multiple routes to system justification, not necessarily conscious The Property of Equifinality :  The Property of Equifinality Goal Means System Justification Economic (Capitalism) Political (Government) Gender (Family) Satisfying the goal is the important thing; there are multiple, functionally interchangeable means of doing so. System Threat Increases Multiple Routes to System Justification:  System Threat Increases Multiple Routes to System Justification 3.66 4.01 4.22 3.92 (with I. Liviatan, in prep) Slide29:  System Threat Condition ESJ (baseline) System Justification (First) .05 .39* -.20* .16+ .13* .05 Negative Affect Entries are unstandardized coefficients (b) + p<.10 * p<.05 **p<.01 Political Orientation (baseline) Positive Affect System Justification (Second) .09 1.09** Palliative Function of System Justification The Property of Multifinality :  Needs Goal System Justification Epistemic: Uncertainty Reduction Existential: Threat Management Relational: Shared Reality The Property of Multifinality Attaining the system justification goal satisfies multiple needs, which makes it a potentially powerful motivational force. Why It Is Useful to Regard System Justification as a Goal System :  Why It Is Useful to Regard System Justification as a Goal System Explains why it is so prevalent Multiple means of satisfying multiple needs (epistemic, existential, relational) Preferred means may depend on situational, individual differences Goals are often pursued non-consciously SJ may be in conflict with other goals, norms; implicit pursuit may avoid conflict Automatic activation could result from frequent goal pursuit; continuous conscious pursuit of SJ would be an exhaustive endeavor Jost, Pietrzak, Liviatan, Mandisodza, & Napier (in press) System Justification as Goal Pursuit :  System Justification as Goal Pursuit Deutsch’s question: “How do we awaken the sense of injustice?” Clarifies processes that lead to system change as well as stability Goal conflict: when competing goals (ego-, group-justification, etc.) are activated, system-justification will be inhibited When justifying the system no longer satisfies epistemic, existential, relational needs, it will be abandoned I would like to thank…:  Morton Deutsch for his inspiration Peter Coleman, award committee NYU colleagues, esp. Madeline Heilman & Tom Tyler NYC friends, esp. George Bonanno & Curtis Hardin My partner & collaborator Orsi Hunyady The best social psychology laboratory of students anywhere… I would like to thank…

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