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Testing thrasymachus' hypothesis: the psychological processes behind power justification

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X (2023). Testing thrasymachus' hypothesis: the psychological processes behind power justification. Philosophical Psychology, pp. 1-18. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2023.2290166


Research on distributive justice has shown that people’s judgments on how to distribute resources justly are shaped by various criteria including equity, need, equality, and prior ownership. Yet, an important question remains open: do people’s judgments about justice take the power of the actors under consideration? In other words, to people deem the powerful to deserve a larger share even when their contribution, need, and prior ownership are equal? The paper addresses this question. Online, participants had to judge the just distribution of resources among actors who were equal in all respects except regarding power. Results revealed that a substantial proportion of participants believed that more powerful actors deserved more resources, an effect referred to as power justification. The effect was related with social dominance orientation (SDO), indicating that high-SDO participants manifested enhanced power justification. These results were replicated in three countries, suggesting that, although cultural differences are possibly important, in most societies power justification might be a criterion advocated by some people in certain occasions. These findings can inspire research about important domains where judgments about justice and power are at play, such as about how juries deliberate and about how public opinion reacts to international conflicts.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
Publisher Keywords: Power, justice, power justification, social dominance orientation, ideology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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