Psychological Perspectives on Justice and Inequality

A theory of system justification


John Jost
Professor of Psychology and Politics, and Co-Director of the Center for Social and Political Behavior, New York University

Mar 23, 2017
3:30 to 5:00 pm

Jesse Wrench Auditorium, Memorial Union

map, parking and directions

Free and open to the public

John T. Jost is Professor of Psychology and Politics and Co-Director of the Center for Social and Political Behavior at New York University. He has published over 150 journal articles and book chapters, and his work has received professional acclaim and international media attention. With over 20,000 academic citations, he is one of the most highly cited social and political psychologists of his generation. He is best known for his work on stereotyping, prejudice, intergroup relations, social justice, political ideology, and system justification theory. Professor Jost has received numerous awards, including the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, Erik Erikson Award for Early Career Research Achievement in Political Psychology, International Society for Self and Identity Early Career Award, Society for Personality and Social Psychology Theoretical Innovation Prize, Society of Experimental Social Psychology Career Trajectory Award, and the Morton Deutsch Award for Distinguished Scholarly and Practical Contributions to Social Justice. He is Past President of the International Society of Political Psychology.


For over thirty years, the rich in industrialized nations have grown richer, while the middle and working classes have remained stagnant or declined in terms of economic position. This fact raises questions that are puzzling from the standpoint of many theories in the social and behavioral sciences. Why do citizens not only tolerate, but find ways of justifying (defending the fairness and legitimacy of) extreme forms of economic inequality in capitalist societies? Why are proponents of certain political and religious ideologies especially likely to tolerate inequality while simultaneously minimizing problems associated with increasing inequality? This presentation will address these and other thorny questions by providing an overview of system justification theory. From this perspective, people are motivated to defend, justify, and legitimize the societal status quo—sometimes even when doing so conflicts with personal or collective self-interest. By drawing on two decades of cutting-edge research in social, personality, and political psychology, Professor Jost will summarize major tenets of system justification theory and describe the results of empirical studies designed to investigate these ideas.

Distinguished Lecture Series Contact:
Jacqueline Chenault, Department of Psychological Science