Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Experimental Psychology

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Lucian Conway

Commitee Members

Daniel Denis, Stephen Yoshimura


Meritocracy, Nepotism, Pressure, Reactance, Informational Contamination


University of Montana


Elite universities in the United States aim to admit the most qualified and competent students (meritocratic recruitment), but also prioritize admitting children of alumni via legacy programs (nepotistic recruitment). These two approaches to admissions are often at odds because the children of alumni might not be the most qualified applicants. What happens when people are forced to support an applicant who is meritocratic, nepotistic, both meritocratic and nepotistic, or neither? To examine this question, I had participants assume the role of an admissions counselor in an admissions committee tasked with picking one top student to admit. I predicted that without pressure to agree on supporting an applicant, participants would support the meritocratic applicant over the nepotistic applicants and perceive the meritocratic applicant to be more qualified than the nepotistic applicant. However, if there is pressure to agree to support a particular applicant, participants would publicly support the favored applicant but privately resent doing so. Results provided mixed support: Although pressure did not directly influence public and private endorsement, there was an indirect of pressure on endorsement measures via reactance. Pressure elicited the same psychological mechanisms (reactance and informational contamination) that help explain why people tend to favor meritocratic applicants but disfavor nepotistic applicants. I close with discussing implications of these two recruitment methods.


© Copyright 2019 Linus Chan