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Title:An early-emerging explanatory heuristic underlies the tendency to defend the status quo
Author(s):Hussak, Larisa
Advisor(s):Cimpian, Andrei
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):system justification
inherence heuristic
social cognition
Abstract:People often view their sociopolitical systems as fair and natural despite glaring biases in their structure. Current theories of this striking phenomenon trace its roots to a motivation to alleviate anxiety and uncertainty. Here, we propose an alternative origin for these system-endorsing attitudes. Specifically, we propose that many such attitudes emerge as a non-motivated byproduct of the fundamental cognitive processes by which people seek to understand the world. These explanatory processes are inadvertently biased to yield highly-accessible, inherent facts as explanations for a wide variety of social and natural phenomena, including—we claim—sociopolitical patterns (e.g., why are some people rich? because they are really smart). In turn, this “inherence” bias makes it seem that the observations being explained (such as the societal status quo) are legitimate and thus worthy of support. Four studies with participants as young as 4 provided correlational and experimental evidence for the hypothesized link between explanatory processes and support for the status quo. These findings suggest that the tendency to endorse existing sociopolitical arrangements emerges partly on a foundation laid early in life by a basic component of human cognition.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Larisa Hussak
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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