Purdue University Graduate School
Dang MS 2021.pdf (1.57 MB)

System-challenging Newcomers

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posted on 2021-07-21, 13:11 authored by Layla DangLayla Dang

Challenges to or criticisms of existing social arrangements often result in individuals bolstering the status quo rather than becoming inspired to consider avenues for improvement - a phenomenon known as system justification. However, it is not yet known whether characteristics of the individual challenging the system might magnify (or alleviate) system-defensive responding. New entrance into a system might be one such characteristic to heighten defensiveness because new entrants likely have had fewer opportunities to prove their commitment to the system’s values. Thus, I conducted three initial studies to develop experimental paradigms testing whether recommendations for change are particularly repudiated when advocated by newcomers. Study 1 examined responses to proposals by a freshman congressperson (vs. senior or control) to change an obscure U.S. policy (N = 540). Study 2 examined responses to a proposal by a new employee (vs. senior or control) to change a workplace policy (N = 515), and Study 3 investigated student responses to a proposal by a junior transfer student (vs. junior continuing student) to change a proudly-held university policy (N = 309). Together, findings across these three paradigms suggest mixed evidence that both newcomers themselves, and their policy ideas, are derogated more than are full members when advocating change, particularly among individuals higher on dispositional system justification. Future, sufficiently-powered research should continue to examine impacts of proposer’s membership status on resistance to system change in order to provide insight into the actors most likely to successfully advocate for social progress.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Erin P. Hennes

Additional Committee Member 2

Margo J. Monteith

Additional Committee Member 3

Kipling D. Williams