Social disadvantage and the self-regulatory function of justice beliefs
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This thesis develops and tests the new theory that beliefs in societal justice offer a distinctive self-regulatory benefit for members of socially disadvantaged groups. Integrating concepts from the social justice and goal motivation literatures I hypothesize that members of disadvantaged groups are more likely than members of advantaged social groups to calibrate their pursuit of long-term goals to their beliefs about societal justice. In Study 1, low but not high SES undergraduates showed greater intentions to persist in the face of poor exam performance to the extent that they believed in societal justice. In Study 2, low but not high SES participants reported more willingness to invest in career pursuits to the extent that they believed in societal justice. In Study 3, ethnic minority, but not ethnic majority, participants who read that societal justice was improving reported more willingness to invest resources in pursuit of long-term goals, relative to control participants. Study 4 replicated Study 3 using a more subtle manipulation of justice beliefs, and demonstrated that the moderating role of ethnic status operates due to a difference in the perceived self-relevance of societal justice. Study 5 examined the moderating role of SES and ethnic status in a large cross-national sample. Two additional studies indicated boundary conditions for the effect, showing that goals which are not perceived as relevant to justice operate in the opposite fashion: In Study 6, low SES participants primed with injustice withdrew their resources from their academic goals, and reinvested them in their social goals. Study 7 replicated this effect, and provided evidence that when the self-relevance of justice information is highlighted, it can influence motivation even among members of advantaged groups. Ethnic majority participants who read about discrimination against their group also withdrew their resources from their academic goals, and reinvested them in their social goals.