Preferences for group dominance track and mediate the effects of macro-level social inequality and violence across societies

Jonas R. Kunst*, Ronald Fischer, Jim Sidanius, Lotte Thomsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Whether and how societal structures shape individual psychology is a foundational question of the social sciences. Combining insights from evolutionary biology, economy, and the political and psychological sciences, we identify a central psychological process that functions to sustain group-based hierarchies in human societies. In study 1, we demonstrate that macrolevel structural inequality, impaired population outcomes, socio-political instability, and the risk of violence are reflected in the endorsement of group hegemony at the aggregate population level across 27 countries (n = 41,824): The greater the national inequality, the greater is the endorsement of between-group hierarchy within the population. Using multilevel analyses in study 2, we demonstrate that these psychological group-dominance motives mediate the effects of macrolevel functioning on individual-level attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, across 30 US states (n = 4,613), macrolevel inequality and violence were associated with greater individuallevel support of group hegemony. Crucially, this individual-level support, rather than cultural-societal norms, was in turn uniquely associated with greater racism, sexism, welfare opposition, and even willingness to enforce group hegemony violently by participating in ethnic persecution of subordinate out-groups. These findings suggest that societal inequality is reflected in people's minds as dominance motives that underpin ideologies and actions that ultimately sustain group-based hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume114
Issue21
Pages (from-to)5407-5412
Number of pages6
ISSN0027-8424
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Social dominance | multi-level mediation | social inequality | racism | ethnic persecution

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