A Compensatory Control Account of Meritocracy

Chris Goode, Lucas A. Keefer, Ludwin E. Molina

Abstract


Why are people motivated to support social systems that claim to distribute resources based on hard work and effort, even when those systems seem unfair? Recent research on compensatory control shows that lowered perceptions of personal control motivate a greater endorsement of external systems (e.g., God, government) that compensate for a lack of personal control. The present studies demonstrate that U.S. citizens’ faith in a popular economic ideology, namely the belief that hard work guarantees success (i.e., meritocracy), similarly increases under conditions of decreased personal control. We found that a threat to personal control increased participants’ endorsement of meritocracy (Studies 1 and 2). Additionally, lowered perceptions of control led to increased feelings of anxiety regarding the future, but the subsequent endorsement of (Study 2) or exposure to (Study 3) meritocracy attenuated this effect. While the compensatory use of meritocracy may be a phenomenon unique to the United States of America, these studies provide important insight into the appeal and persistence of ideologies in general.


Keywords


meritocracy; compensatory control; ideology; system justification; social mobility

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https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v2i1.372

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Citations:

  • Brendan Nyhan, Thomas Zeitzoff (2018)
    Fighting the Past: Perceptions of Control, Historical Misperceptions, and Corrective Information in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    Political Psychology, 39(3), p. 611(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12449
  • Anyi Ma, Aaron C. Kay (2017)
    Compensatory control and ambiguity intolerance
    Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 140, p. 46(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2017.04.001
  • Chris Goode, Lucas A. Keefer, Nyla R. Branscombe, Ludwin E. Molina (2017)
    Group identity as a source of threat and means of compensation: Establishing personal control through group identification and ideology
    European Journal of Social Psychology, 47(3), p. 259(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2259
  • Chris Goode, Lucas A. Keefer (2016)
    Grabbing Your Bootstraps: Threats to Economic Order Boost Beliefs in Personal Control
    Current Psychology, 35(1), p. 142(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-015-9376-0
  • Aaron C Kay, Mark J Brandt (2016)
    Ideology and intergroup inequality: emerging directions and trends
    Current Opinion in Psychology, 11, p. 110(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.07.007



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