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The Role of Self-Explanations and Self-Evaluations in Legitimating Inequality

Norma J. Shepelak
American Sociological Review
Vol. 52, No. 4 (Aug., 1987), pp. 495-503
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095294
Page Count: 9
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The Role of Self-Explanations and Self-Evaluations in Legitimating Inequality
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Abstract

This paper examines a model that relates individuals' explanations and evaluations of their socioeconomic standing to their sentiments of just rewards. Individuals tend to believe that inequalities are legitimate to the extent that they attribute the cause of their position of advantage or disadvantage to themselves. In this way, feelings of self-worth (i.e., self-evaluations) and explanations of responsibility are tied to the distribution of rewards. Employing survey data (N = 328), we examine these assumptions within the social psychological context of equity and attribution theories. We find that sense of worth is affected both by level of rewards and by explanations of socioeconomic standing, and that explanations and evaluations play a small role in conditioning judgments of socioeconomic fairness.

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