College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christine Reyna, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ralph Erber, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joe Mikels, Ph.D.


Two theories. system justification theory (SJT) and social dominance theory (SDT). both attempt to explain the prevalence and stability of unequal social systems and are o-ften consider analogous by their proponents. With the newly proposed Two Dimensional i'vlodel of System Legitimacy (2D-iv10SL). 1 argue that each theory captures a dimension of system relevant motivations: the resistance to social change (RSC). has primarily been studied by SJT and ranges on a continuum from the resistance to the acceptance of social change and the acceptance of inequality (AOI). has primarily been studied by SDT and ranges on a continuum !rom the acceptance to the rejection of inequality. The 2D- i'v!OSL predicts that both of these dimensions will be independently associated with the legitimacy of the social system. indicating that they are not analogous system-relevant motivations. Results·were largely consistent with this expectation (Studies L 2a. & 3)

The 2D-MOSL also lends itself to a number of additional predictioris, The AO!should be associated with legitimacy only in cases when the society upholds the·goal of inequality. As expected, the AOI was negatively or nonsignificantly related to legitimacy in more equal European countries (Study I) and an unnamed equal country (Study 2). but positively related in more unequal comparison countries. The RSC. however. should not depend on the inequality of the country and so is related to legitimacy no matter the inequality of the status quo (Studies I and 2a). Study 2b revealed that the RSC predicted legitimacy in stable societies. but not in societies with ever changing cultural values. Taken together. these studies indicate that people legitimize social systems when it matches their motivations related to inequality and social change.

Study 3 attempted to extend the theory to measures of racial intolerance, expecting that the AOI would consistently predict intolerance, whereas the RSC would predict intolerance when the status quo is portrayed as unequal compared to when it is portrayed as more equal (see Kay et al.. 2009). Although both RSC and AOI predicted racial intolerance the manipulation of the inequality of the status quo did not moderate any of the associations.

Study 4 proposed that there are situations where the AOI and RSC contlicL especially for people high on the RSC. People in an unequal system who are high on the RSC and low on the AOI could feel conflict because these individuals disagree with the overall structure of the so1=iety, but yet disavow the change needed to rectify the situation. In Study 4. I tested whether this conflict resulted in feelings of ambivalence across measures of subjective and objective system ambivalence. The results indicated that people did experience system ambivalence and that this ambivalence varied depending on participants AOI and RSC and the inequality of the status quo; however, the precise individuals expects to exhibit the highest levels of ambivalence did not emerge. Instead it appeared that people who are used to being antagonistic to the system greatly reduced their ambivalence when they were given information that suggested the system was in line with their own goals.

In sum. results were supportive of the primary predictions of the 20-MOSL indicating that it may be a viable imegration of SJT and SOT. but less supportive of the many differem secondary predictions.

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