System Justification and Emergence of Social Norms

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Arcade Courtyard (Main Building)
Ondrej BUCHEL, University of Trento, Italy
Social norms are understood to moderate the amount of unintended consequences, effectively guiding behavior towards predictable outcomes. Depending on locally dominant culture, people infer norms as 'the grammar of society' (Bicchieri, 2006) and the rules of the game (North, 1990), and adopt values and goals as they perceive and understand them. In a stable environment, the likelihood of imperfect assessment of the situation and erroneous inference and interpretation of social norms is either lower or easier to correct. However, personal and group efficacy may be greatly affected in situations in which clear norms and values either do not yet exist or are being contested and renegotiated. In such situations, there is a risk of social stagnation and paralysis since individual actors are unable to plan sufficiently ahead. A dispositional characteristic allowing one to consider own judgment as similar to judgment of others would then greatly improve potential for meaningful action, and thus overall fitness of such individual.

Within the framework of conservatism as motivated social cognition (Jost et al., 2003), motivation to see the social world as just and predictable means that reasoning strategies driven by such goals will defend beliefs and behavior assessed as likely protecting the status quo. Since norms are a part of perceived social arrangements, people motivated to see the structure as just and predictable are expected to a) consider the perceived norms as more just and b) expect others to see the norms similar to one's own interpretation of these. The present research assesses a particular link between a need to see the social world as just and predictable (measured as a tendency to system-justify) and a tendency to consider one's normative beliefs as more akin to normative beliefs of the generalized other, thus potentially giving rise to emergence of perceived stability of social norms.