Social justice & Inequality

social-justice-origSome degree of inequality is a very nearly inevitable feature of any group of human beings. Some people will more or better stuff than other people, and some groups of people will more or better stuff than other groups of people. The extent to which these inequalities are legitimate–the extent to which those with more stuff have merited or deserved it–is one important aspect of social justice.

In our lab we ask questions about both inequality and social justice. How do people handle their own advantage or disadvantage relative to others? How do people go about convincing themselves that justice exists? And what happens when that effort falls flat–when people are confronted with social injustice they cannot rationalize away?

*A good deal of current research in the lab focuses on this topic*


Engstrom, H. R., Alic, A., & Laurin, K. (forthcoming). Motivated justice cognitions. In E. A. Lind (Ed.), Social psychology and justice. Frontiers in Psychology.

Friesen, J. P., Laurin, K., Shepherd, S., Gaucher, D. & Kay, A. C. (in press). System justification: Experimental evidence, its contextual nature, and implications for social change. British Journal of Social Psychology.

Belmi, P., & Laurin, K. (2016). Who wants to get to the top? Class and lay theories about power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111, 505-529.

Laurin, K., Gaucher, D., & Kay, A. C. (2013). Stability and the justification of social inequality. European Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 246-254.

Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Shepherd, S. (2011). Self-stereotyping as a route to system justification. Social Cognition, 29, 360-375.

Laurin, K., Fitzsimons, G. M., & Kay, A. C. (2011). Social Disadvantage and the Self-Regulatory Function of Justice Beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 149-171.

Laurin, K., Shepherd, S., & Kay, A. C. (2010). System inescapability and defense of the status quo: System-justifying consequences of restricted exit opportunities. Psychological Science, 21, 1075-1082.

Kay, A. C., Banfield, J., Laurin, K. (2010). Ideology and power. In T. Vescio & A Guinote (Eds.),The Social Psychology of Power. New York: Guilford Press.

Gaucher, D., Kay, A. C., & Laurin, K. (2010). The power of the status quo: Consequences for maintaining and perpetuating inequality. In R. Bobocel, A. C. Kay, M. P. Zanna, & J. M. Olson (Eds.), The Psychology of Justice and Legitimacy: The Ontario Symposium (Vol. 11). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

Kay, A. C. Gaucher, D., Peach, J. M., Friesen, J., Laurin, K., Zanna, M. P., & Spencer, S. J. (2009). Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to view what is as what should be. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 421-434.