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Social Representations of History and the Legitimation of Social Inequality: The Causes and Consequences of Historical Negation


  • The authors contributed equally to this manuscript.

Chris G. Sibley, Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. E-mail:


The stories of history tend to favor dominant groups. Two longitudinal studies indicated that ideologies negating historical injustice experienced by Māori (the indigenous peoples of New Zealand) predicted increased opposition toward social policies promoting material reparation among New Zealand European undergraduates. Historical negation was, in turn, predicted by right-wing authoritarianism (Study 2). These findings suggest that the authoritarian motivation to protect the positive history of the in-group causes New Zealand Europeans to actively position historical injustices performed by earlier colonial generations as irrelevant. Positioning history in this fashion has important consequences for the mobilization of political attitudes and, in particular, opposition toward social and political policies relating to the distribution of resources and status within society.