Is the belief in meritocracy palliative for members of low status groups? Evidence for a benefit for self-esteem and physical health via perceived control

Authors


Correspondence to: Shannon K. McCoy, Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5742, USA.

E-mail: shannon.mccoy@umit.maine.edu

Abstract

Consensually held ideologies may serve as the cultural “glue” that justifies hierarchical status differences in society . Yet to be effective, these beliefs need to be embraced by low status groups. Why would members of low status groups endorse beliefs that justify their relative disadvantage? We propose that members of low status groups in the USA may benefit from some system-justifying beliefs (such as the belief in meritocracy) to the extent that these beliefs emphasize the perception of control over future outcomes. In two studies, among women, lower socioeconomic status women, and women of color, we found a positive relationship between the belief in meritocracy and well-being (self-esteem and physical health) that was mediated by perceived control. Members of low status groups may benefit from some system-justifying beliefs to the extent that these beliefs, such as the belief in meritocracy, emphasize the perception of control over future outcomes. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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