When Suspicious Minds Go Political: Distrusting and Justifying the System at the Same Time



Drawing on the sensitivity to mean intentions model, we hypothesized that sensitivity to injustice from a victim's perspective (victim sensitivity) is negatively related to the acceptance of political reforms due to an inclination to attribute ulterior motives to policy makers. In Study 1 with a Canadian sample, initial evidence for this mediational model was obtained, as victim sensitivity uniquely predicted distrust of policy makers through general trait suspiciousness. In Study 2, victim-sensitive Austrians and Germans ascribed sinister motives to initiators of an economic reform when contextual cues of initiators' untrustworthiness were given. This situational suspiciousness led them to subsequently oppose this particular reform, and it even generalized to the whole economic system by reducing economic-system justification. However, in both studies, mutually suppressive tendencies toward both opposing and justifying the system occurred. This suggests that victim-sensitive individuals may be torn between distrusting and endorsing the system because it can not only victimize but also promote a sense of security from victimization by conferring order.