Skip to main content Accessibility help

Why does the “mental shotgun” fire system-justifying bullets?

  • Danielle Gaucher (a1) and John T. Jost (a2)


We suggest that people privilege explanations relying on inherent rather than contingent factors not only because of an innate cognitive tendency to monitor reality, but because doing so satisfies the desire to perceive the societal status quo as legitimate. In support, we describe experimental studies linking the activation of system justification motivation to the endorsement of inherence-based (essentialist) explanations.



Hide All
Blanchar, J. & Eidelman, S. (2013) Perceived system longevity increases system justification and the legitimacy of inequality. European Journal of Social Psychology 43:238–45.
Brescoll, V. L., Uhlmann, E. L. & Newman, G. N. (2013) The effects of system-justifying motives on endorsement of essentialist explanations for gender differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 105:891908.
Eagly, A. H. & Steffen, V. J. (1984) Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46:735–54.
Gaucher, D., Jost, J. T. & Laurin, K. (2013) [System threat and essentialism.] Unpublished raw data.
Hoffman, C. & Hurst, N. (1990) Gender stereotypes: Perception or rationalization? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 58:197208.
Jost, J. T. & Banaji, M. R. (1994) The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology 33:127.
Jost, J. T., Gaucher, D., & Stern, C. (2015). “The world isn't fair”: A system justification perspective on social stratification and inequality. In: APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. Volume 2. ed. Dovidio, J. F. & Simpson, J., pp. 317–40. American Psychological Association.
Jost, J. T. & Hamilton, D. L. (2005) Stereotypes in our culture. In: On the nature of prejudice: Fifty years after Allport, ed. Dovidio, J. F., Glick, P. & Rudman, L., pp. 208–24. Blackwell.
Kay, A. C. & Friesen, J. (2011) On social stability and social change: Understanding when system justification does and does not occur. Current Directions in Psychological Science 20:360–64.
Keller, J. (2005) In genes we trust: The biological component of psychological essentialism and its relationship to mechanisms of motivated social cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88:686702. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.88.4.686.
Laurin, K., Shepard, S. & Kay, A. C. (2010) Restricted emigration, system inescapability, and the defense of the status quo: System-justifying consequences of restricted exit opportunities. Psychological Science 21:1075–82.
Lerner, M. J. (1980) The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion. Plenum
Mahalingam, R. (2003b) Essentialism, culture, and power representations of social class. Journal of Social Issues 59:733–49.
Napier, J. L., Mandisodza, A. N., Andersen, S. M. & Jost, J. T. (2006) System justification in responding to the poor and displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 6:5773.
Solak, N., Jost, J. T., Sümer, N. & Clore, G. (2012) Rage against the machine: The case for system-level emotions. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 6:674–90.

Why does the “mental shotgun” fire system-justifying bullets?

  • Danielle Gaucher (a1) and John T. Jost (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed