College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-14-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Christine Reyna, PhD

Second Advisor

Jennifer Zimmerman, PhD


American systems are commonly discussed in system justification literature; however, little is known about what subsystems are important to Americans’ understanding of the overall American system and what impact status has on forming these perceptions. This study attempts to answer these questions by asking Americans about their perceptions of the overall American system and seven underlying subsystems (political, economic, employment, education, criminal justice, social services, and health care). Three hundred and forty three community members from the Chicagoland area and Mechanical Turk were recruited to participate in the survey. It was hypothesized that high-status participants would prioritize the subsystems that they justify while low-status participants would prioritize the subsystems they do not justify in their understanding of the overall American system. Status, measured by income, did not significantly predict this relationship. It was further hypothesized that justification of subsystems and income would each have a positive relationship with justification of the overall American system. Justification of subsystems was found to be a significant predictor of justification of the American system; however, status did not predict American system justification. Finally, an exploratory cluster analysis revealed three distinct clusters which indicated different ways participants conceptualized the American system. This analysis makes the first steps towards understanding how various subsystems within the American system are conceptualized and perceived by people of different statuses. Future directions for this research are discussed.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons