The Psychology of System Justification and the Palliative Function of Ideology

By John T. JostOrsolya Hunyady
2002| Working Paper No. 1754

In this chapter, we trace the historical and intellectual origins of system justification theory, summarize the basic assumptions of the theory, and derive 18 specific hypotheses from a system justification perspective. We review and integrate empirical evidence addressing these hypotheses concerning the rationalization of the status quo, the internalization of inequality (outgroup favoritism and depressed entitlement), relations among ego, group, and system justification motives (including consequences for attitudinal ambivalence, self-esteem, and psychological well-being), and the reduction of ideological dissonance. Turning to the question of why people would engage in system justificationespecially when it conflicts with other interests and motives we propose that system justifying ideologies serve a palliative function in that they reduce anxiety, guilt, dissonance, discomfort, and uncertainty for those who are advantaged and disadvantaged.