chapter  2
26 Pages

Thinking About Inequality

WithJames R. Kluegel, Eliot R. Smith

In this chapter, the authors discuss several social–psychological processes that may shape reactions to inequality, along with a sketch of the research evidence for each. They describe some of their implications for specific reactions to inequality. As people seek to comprehend inequality and their position in society, a number of basic processes are intrinsically involved. The current understanding of these processes owes much to social–psychological research, often in laboratory settings. The influences of the individual's culture, society, and particular socioeconomic position are pervasive and are the particular interest of social psychologists. In cognitive terms, beliefs that are socialized early and consistently enough form a basic framework of knowledge that is difficult for an individual even to recognize, let alone overturn. The multiple functions of beliefs and attitudes constitute a potential motivational basis for inconsistency within an individual's belief structures.