Implicit nationalism as system justification: The case of the United States of America

Travis J. Carter*, Melissa J. Ferguson, Ran R. Hassin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


America as a nation has self-perpetuating needs that do not always align with the needs or beliefs of individual Americans. As much as Americans may love their country and way of life, they do not always explicitly agree with the policies that best serve to bolster and perpetuate the nation, such as unyielding diplomatic stances, unilateral military action, or giving up civil liberties in exchange for security. How then does a country with such diverse explicit opinions maintain its national power structures and the support of the populace? System justification theory contends that members of a system have an implicit motive to justify and bolster that system (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004). Based on recent work on the implicit nationalism, we argue that the types of information that become associated with the nation in memory are the same types of information that help bolster and perpetuate the American system. In the present study, we find that a subtle reminder of America increases system justification for those with some moderate exposure to the political media, regardless of their explicit ideology. We argue that the implicit activation of information associated with America ultimately serves a nationalistic function, and more broadly, the system justification motive.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)341-359
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


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