Questioning the Meritocracy: Investigating System Change Motivation in White Americans
Haverford College. Department of Psychology
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Based on the work of Johnson and Fujita (2012) and Stevens et al. (2008), this study investigated a method through which to activate system-change motivation in White American liberals and moderates. Using articles about the Biden administration's policy plans, we manipulated the level of perceived changeability in United States systems and participants' sense of inclusion (regular or all-inclusive multiculturalism). Contrary to our hypotheses, change and multiculturalism conditions had no main effects on our dependent variables except support for increased minimum wage. Exploratory analyses indicated multiple interaction effects between changeability condition and participants' perceived positivity of the changes. When the U.S. was presented as a changeable system, participants who rated the possible changes more positively scored lower on measures of system-legitimizing beliefs and indicated more support for progressive policies. These changes may represent the activation of system-change motivation. Overall, we conclude that there are complex relationships between changeability, multiculturalism, and perceived positivity of changes, but that our work shows tentative support for the existence of a system-change motivation. Limitations and directions for future study of system-change motivation are discussed.