Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Science
Dr. Anne E. Wilson
Despite rising inequality making upward social mobility difficult, faith in the American Dream persists. Why is this the case? In six studies (five pre-registered), we demonstrate that in scenarios where hard work and ability are held constant, people praise the hard work and talent of individuals who successfully move up the social ladder while derogating these same characteristics among individuals who do not; a pattern of attributions which is likely to reinforce the American Dream. Further, conservatives explain mobility failure particularly in terms of personal shortcomings whereas liberals look to systemic disadvantages, attributions that in turn predicted lowered and heightened support for policies designed to promote equality, respectively. Moreover, experimentally inducing a focus on societal barriers to upward mobility (vs. Internal factors) increased support for policies to reduce these barriers, and reduced system justification and faith in the American Dream, particularly among conservatives.
Shanahan, Erin, "Is it just a dream? How attributions for successful and unsuccessful social mobility attempts maintain the myth of the American Dream" (2021). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2399.