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Self Control in Society, Mind, and Brain$
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Ran Hassin, Kevin Ochsner, and Yaacov Trope

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391381

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391381.001.0001

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System Justification and the Disruption of Environmental Goal-Setting: A Self-Regulatory Perspective

System Justification and the Disruption of Environmental Goal-Setting: A Self-Regulatory Perspective

(p.490) CHAPTER 26 System Justification and the Disruption of Environmental Goal-Setting: A Self-Regulatory Perspective
Self Control in Society, Mind, and Brain

Irina Feygina

Rachel E. Goldsmith

John T. Jost

Oxford University Press

Global warming and environmental destruction pose formidable social dilemmas. Although the contribution of each person to the problem through consumption, utilization, and waste is nearly invisible, the cumulative impact for the well-being of societies and individuals within those societies is potentially devastating. We propose that an important psychological factor contributing to the environmental commons dilemma is the motivation to justify and rationalize the status quo and the extant socioeconomic system. Rather than acknowledging and confronting environmental problems, we propose that people may engage in denial of environmental realities as a means of satisfying short-term needs associated with system justification. Denial, in turn, contributes to a failure to set pro-environmental goals and the tendency to perpetuate environmentally harmful behaviors that are detrimental in the long term. Four studies provided support for these predictions. People who exhibit chronically stronger (vs. weaker) tendencies to justify the system reported greater denial of environmental problems, less favorable attitudes toward the environment, and failure to set useful, ambitious goals or to engage in behaviors that would prevent further environmental deterioration. Differences in system justification tendencies helped to explain commonly observed differences in environmental attitudes and behaviors among liberals and conservatives, women and men, and those with more—compared to less—years of education. In addition, our experimental evidence suggested that engaging in denial of environmental realities serves a system-justifying function by re-establishing a view of the system as legitimate and just, but it interferes with setting goals to help the environment. Implications of a self-regulatory perspective on environmental attitudes and potential contributions of a social psychological analysis of commons dilemmas are discussed.

Keywords:   system justification, commons dilemmas, self-regulation, intention formation, goal setting, global warming, environmental attitudes and behaviors

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