John T. Jost, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Politics
Co-Director, Center for Social and Political Behavior
New York University
Topic: A Quarter Century of System Justification Theory:
Questions, Answers, Criticisms, and Societal Applications
A theory of system justification was proposed 25 years ago by Jost and Banaji (1994) to explain “the participation by disadvantaged individuals and groups in negative stereotypes of themselves” and the phenomenon of outgroup favoritism. The scope of the theory was subsequently expanded to account for a much wider range of outcomes, including appraisals of fairness, justice, legitimacy, deservingness, and entitlement; spontaneous and deliberate social judgments about individuals, groups, and events; and full-fledged political and religious ideologies. According to system justification theory, people are motivated (to varying degrees, depending upon situational and dispositional factors) to defend, bolster, and justify aspects of existing social, economic, and political systems. Engaging in system justification serves the palliative function of increasing satisfaction with the status quo and addresses underlying epistemic, existential, and relational needs to reduce uncertainty, threat, and social discord. In this talk I will summarizes major tenets of system justification theory, review some of the empirical evidence supporting it, answer several questions and criticisms, and highlights areas of societal relevance and directions for future research.