People’s motivation to rationalize and defend the status quo is a major barrier to societal change. Three studies tested whether perceived social mobility—beliefs about the likelihood to move up and down the socioeconomic ladder—can condition people’s tendency to engage in system justification. Compared to information suggesting moderate social mobility, exposure to low social mobility frames consistently reduced defense of the overarching societal system. Two studies examined how this effect occurs. Compared to moderate or baseline conditions, a low social mobility frame reduced people’s endorsement of (typically strong) meritocratic and just-world beliefs, which in turn explained lower system defense. These effects occurred for political liberals, moderates, and conservatives and could not be explained by other system-legitimizing ideologies or people’s beliefs about their own social mobility. Implications for societal change programs are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- social mobility
- system defense