System justification: A motivational process with implications for social conflict

John T. Jost, Ido Liviatan, Jojanneke Van Der Toorn, Alison Ledgerwood, Anesu Mandisodza, Brian A. Nosek

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


According to system justification theory, people are motivated to defend and legitimize the social systems that affect them. In this chapter, we review 15 years of theory and empirical research demonstrating the motivational underpinnings of system justification processes. We begin by explaining why people are motivated to system justify (i.e., it serves social and psychological needs). We then describe five lines of evidence that corroborate the motivational postulate of system justification theory: (1) Individual differences in self-deception and ideological motivation are linked to system justification; (2) System threat elicits defensive responses on behalf of the system; (3) People engage in biased information-processing in favor of system-serving conclusions; (4) System justification processes exhibit properties of goal pursuit; and (5) The desire to legitimize the system inspires greater behavioral effort. We consider the implications of this motivational approach for understanding situations-including situations involving social conflict-that facilitate resistance to vs. support for social change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationJustice and Conflicts: Theoretical and Empirical Contributions
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical and empirical contributions
EditorsE Kals, J Maes
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSpringer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9783642190353
ISBN (Print)9783642190353, 3642190340, 9783642190346
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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