How do egalitarians accept meritocracy? The role of compensatory judgments

[Speaker] Yada, Naoya:1
[Co-author] Ikegami, Tomoko:1
1:Osaka City University (Japan)

We investigated how egalitarians manage to accept meritocratic systems that could produce economic inequality, through a vignette study with a sample of 197 Japanese undergraduates. Participants first indicated the extent to which they endorsed egalitarian beliefs (that society should be equal) and perceived current Japanese society as economically equal. They then evaluated both academically competent and incompetent target persons regarding competence and warmth. Finally, they indicated the extent to which they agreed with meritocratic norms. Results showed that the tendency to evaluate competent and incompetent persons in a compensatory manner on warmth was associated with acceptance of meritocratic norms among those who strongly believed that society should be equal but a significant economic gap exists in Japan. This suggests that compensatory judgments about others help egalitarians create an illusion of equality and thereby rationalize the existing hierarchical structure based on individuals' competence.
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