Social psychological perspectives on the legitimation of social inequality: Past, present and future

Rui Costa-Lopes, John F. Dovidio, Cícero Roberto Pereira, John T. Jost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This introductory article for the special issue entitled "Social Psychological Perspectives on the Legitimation of Social Inequality" reviews various theoretical frameworks applied to the study of this topic. Legitimation of social inequality occurs through individual-level, group-level, and system-level processes. In societies in which egalitarianism and fairness are core cultural values, legitimation permits differential treatment of people on the basis of their social group memberships while allowing people to maintain positive self-images, to reinforce group-based hierarchies and to justify a status quo that systematically benefits some individuals and groups more than others. In this article, we focus on three major theoretical perspectives in social psychology that have inspired most of the research featured in this special issue, and we offer a general overview of the articles to follow, expanding upon their connections to one another and to the theme of the issue. We highlight the promise of research on legitimation of social inequality not only for developing a deeper and more integrative theoretical understanding of intergroup relations but also for guiding interventions to achieve social equality in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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