“The meaning and role of ideology in system justification and resistance for high- and low-status people”

[Social Psychology]

The American Dream, touting equality, meritocracy, and democracy, is still very much alive, though it remains, as always, just that: a dream. In a series of three studies, published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Zimmerman & Reyna found that participants still endorsed those quintessentially-American ideals, but participants also felt like actual society is currently falling short of attaining them. The difference between the actual and the idealized was pronounced in lower socio-economic participants, who perceived a bigger difference between the two than participants with higher incomes. Interestingly, however, lower-income participants tended to affirm the existing system at least as strongly, if not more so, than their wealthier counterparts.  Previous research has been taken this as evidence of a system justification that sustains inequality. Zimmerman & Reyna instead argue that idealized belief endorsement among the low-income group represents holding an existing and imperfect system to its higher aspirations. Though this only looks at financial divisions, this research suggests that underprivileged and oppressed groups may support the ideals of a failing system without endorsing its faulty actualization.

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