Conservative ideological shift among adolescents in response to system threat

Jojanneke van der Toorn, John T. Jost, Benjamin Loffredo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined conservative ideological shift among adolescents by assessing the effect of different types of threat on the selfreported political orientation of 183 New York City high school students and investigated the mediating role of system justification. Participants read one of three newspaper passages: (1) a system-related passage that described flaws in the American social, economic, and political system; (2) a self-related passage that described the deleterious health effects of cell phone use; or (3) a control passage that described house plant cultivation. Participants then completed measures of system justification and political orientation. As hypothesized, a threat to the system (but not the self) increased self-reported conservatism indirectly through its effect on system justification. This suggests that when the overarching social system is threatened, adolescents may be drawn to conservative ideology and that this is attributable, at least in part, to a heightened desire to defend and bolster the societal status quo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-362
Number of pages6
JournalZeitschrift fur Psychologie / Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Ideology system justification
  • Political orientation
  • System threat
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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