The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness


Department of Psychology, Yale University, PO Box 208205, Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520–8205, USA


Although the concept of justification has played a significant role in many social psychological theories, its presence in recent examinations of stereotyping has been minimal. We describe and evaluate previous notions of stereotyping as ego-justification and group-justification and propose an additional account, that of system-justification, which refers to psychological processes contributing to the preservation of existing social arrangements even at the expense of personal and group interest. It is argued that the notion of system-justification is necessary to account for previously unexplained phenomena, most notably the participation by disadvantaged individuals and groups in negative stereotypes of themselves, and the consensual nature of stereotypic beliefs despite differences in social relations within and between social groups. We offer a selective review of existing research that demonstrates the role of stereotypes in the production of false consciousness and develop the implications of a system-justification approach.

[T]he rationalizing and justifying function of a stereotype exceeds its function as a reflector of group attributes—G. W. Allport (1958, p. 192).