Research Topic

Exploring System Justification Phenomenon Among Disadvantaged Individuals

About this Research Topic

In the wake of growing inequalities, fatal law enforcement regimes, and aggressive immigration policies, questions have arisen as to why, for example: (a) the poor sometimes oppose the redistribution of wealth, (b) the disadvantaged are sometimes hostile to migrants who share a common cultural heritage, and (c) women voluntarily engage in traditional gender roles that are detrimental to their mental health and economic independence. Although several members of these disadvantaged communities have risen in protest against some of the ongoing socio-economic and political realities that disfavor them (e.g. Black Lives Matter and #Metoo movements), there is still a consistent portion of the population that remains silent.

The focus of this Research Topic is to understand why some members of these communities accept or even enthusiastically support the status quo (the so-called “system justification” phenomenon). Despite the long tradition of research that has focused on disadvantaged people supporting social realities that are unfavorable to them, the reason for this tendency remains unclear. Some theoretical accounts have focused on individual-level motivations, such as uncertainty avoidance, cognitive dissonance, beliefs in a just world, system justification motivation, social dominance orientation, or the desire to maintain order/structure in one’s lives. Others have focused on group-based explanations, including an emphasis on hope for a future positive social identity, ingroup bias/interests, positive downward intergroup comparison, superordinate identification, social reality constraints, or image management. Finally, some have focused on societal level explanations, such as social representations.

This Research Topic aims to provide a richer understanding of the “system justification” phenomenon amongst the disadvantaged by showcasing emerging work from the recent debates between scholars from different socio-psychological theoretical traditions. The emphasis is on gaining a greater understanding of why and when the “system justification” phenomenon occurs among disadvantaged people. In addition, we will also consider other broader questions arising from the “system justification” phenomenon, such as how disadvantaged individuals might contribute to social inequality, knowingly or otherwise.

The study of the “system justification” phenomenon cuts across a wide range of disciplines. For this Research Topic, we primarily invite quantitative or qualitative empirical papers (Original Research, Brief & [pre-]Registered Reports) as well as theoretical contributions (e.g. Hypothesis and Theory, [Mini] Reviews, Opinion) from social psychology, although interdisciplinary work incorporating insights from sociology, economics, and anthropology are welcome too, as long as a clear connection to socio-psychological processes is made.

Questions may include (but not limited to) the following:
• Why do the disadvantaged support and legitimize social inequality? What strategies allow the disadvantaged to legitimize their disadvantage? What are the boundaries of this phenomenon? What socio-psychological factors enable disadvantaged people to withdraw their support for the status quo?
• Do the disadvantaged possess an autonomous system justification motivation?
• How can social judgment processes, such as stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and social confrontation influence why disadvantaged people support the status quo or withdraw such support? What processes might cause disadvantaged people to (de)legitimize rhetoric/beliefs about social inequality?
• What impact might legitimizing/delegitimizing beliefs have on the wellbeing of people from disadvantaged communities?


Keywords: social disadvantage, oppression, social hierarchy, intergroup conflict, social change, system justification


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In the wake of growing inequalities, fatal law enforcement regimes, and aggressive immigration policies, questions have arisen as to why, for example: (a) the poor sometimes oppose the redistribution of wealth, (b) the disadvantaged are sometimes hostile to migrants who share a common cultural heritage, and (c) women voluntarily engage in traditional gender roles that are detrimental to their mental health and economic independence. Although several members of these disadvantaged communities have risen in protest against some of the ongoing socio-economic and political realities that disfavor them (e.g. Black Lives Matter and #Metoo movements), there is still a consistent portion of the population that remains silent.

The focus of this Research Topic is to understand why some members of these communities accept or even enthusiastically support the status quo (the so-called “system justification” phenomenon). Despite the long tradition of research that has focused on disadvantaged people supporting social realities that are unfavorable to them, the reason for this tendency remains unclear. Some theoretical accounts have focused on individual-level motivations, such as uncertainty avoidance, cognitive dissonance, beliefs in a just world, system justification motivation, social dominance orientation, or the desire to maintain order/structure in one’s lives. Others have focused on group-based explanations, including an emphasis on hope for a future positive social identity, ingroup bias/interests, positive downward intergroup comparison, superordinate identification, social reality constraints, or image management. Finally, some have focused on societal level explanations, such as social representations.

This Research Topic aims to provide a richer understanding of the “system justification” phenomenon amongst the disadvantaged by showcasing emerging work from the recent debates between scholars from different socio-psychological theoretical traditions. The emphasis is on gaining a greater understanding of why and when the “system justification” phenomenon occurs among disadvantaged people. In addition, we will also consider other broader questions arising from the “system justification” phenomenon, such as how disadvantaged individuals might contribute to social inequality, knowingly or otherwise.

The study of the “system justification” phenomenon cuts across a wide range of disciplines. For this Research Topic, we primarily invite quantitative or qualitative empirical papers (Original Research, Brief & [pre-]Registered Reports) as well as theoretical contributions (e.g. Hypothesis and Theory, [Mini] Reviews, Opinion) from social psychology, although interdisciplinary work incorporating insights from sociology, economics, and anthropology are welcome too, as long as a clear connection to socio-psychological processes is made.

Questions may include (but not limited to) the following:
• Why do the disadvantaged support and legitimize social inequality? What strategies allow the disadvantaged to legitimize their disadvantage? What are the boundaries of this phenomenon? What socio-psychological factors enable disadvantaged people to withdraw their support for the status quo?
• Do the disadvantaged possess an autonomous system justification motivation?
• How can social judgment processes, such as stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and social confrontation influence why disadvantaged people support the status quo or withdraw such support? What processes might cause disadvantaged people to (de)legitimize rhetoric/beliefs about social inequality?
• What impact might legitimizing/delegitimizing beliefs have on the wellbeing of people from disadvantaged communities?


Keywords: social disadvantage, oppression, social hierarchy, intergroup conflict, social change, system justification


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 February 2021 Abstract
30 April 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 February 2021 Abstract
30 April 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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