Meritocracy is the idea that success is based upon the merit and effort of an individual, rather than any other social factors such as class, race or gender. Success is therefore attributed to effort and ability whereas failure is attributed to a lack of this. This notion has been picked up for its positive connotations of fairness to the extent that the values of meritocracy have been termed the ‘dominant ideology’ (Kluegel and Smith, 1986: 5) in America, a position that can be applied to the entire ‘west’. Much of the (social) psychological literature on meritocracy has focussed on the effects that a belief in meritocracy have on how individuals view discrimination (usually regarding discrimination based on race or gender). To this end Lalonde et al (2000) developed a ‘belief in meritocracy scale’ which is designed to measure the extent to which people believe that we live in a meritocratic society. McCoy and Major (2007) claim that meritocratic beliefs are associated with other psychological factors such as ‘belief in individual mobility’, the ‘protestant work ethic’ and the ‘belief in a just world’. Scoring highly on these is correlated with favouring members of high status groups over low, holding members of low status groups responsible for their disadvantaged position.
Citation : Goodman, S. (2014) Meritocracy. In: Teo, T. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, Heidelberg: Springer.
ISBN : 9781461455820
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed : Yes