The Dependency-Counterdependency Dynamic: Interactive Effects of System Justification and Power-Distance Orientation on Radicalization against the Political System

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System Justification Theory posits that individuals are less prone to engage in radical action against a system on which they depend. In the present research, we investigated how the association between system-justifying tendencies and radical intentions is moderated by individuals' orientation towards power differentials, namely their “power distance.” A stronger power distance orientation implies that individuals perceive power differentials as a fixed feature of society, curtailing prospects for change. We hypothesized that, at lower levels of power distance orientation, system-justification tendencies would be associated with reduced radical intentions. We contend this will occur because individuals feel dependent on a system perceived as malleable (dependency hypothesis). Conversely, at higher levels of power distance orientation, we expected system-justification tendencies to be associated with stronger radical intentions. We argue that this effect reflects the rejection of dependency on a system perceived as fixed (counterdependency hypothesis). This dependency-counterdependency dynamic was tested using a multigroup latent structural equation model and samples from four countries (NTotal = 2,502), South Korea, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Results were consistent with the hypothesized dynamic across all countries. Theoretical implications of the findings, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-645
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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