(In)justice as Fairness

Kevin Lewis

May 04, 2010

Decisions by coin toss: Inappropriate but fair

Gideon Keren & Karl Teigen
Judgment and Decision Making, April 2010, Pages 83-101

In many situations of indeterminacy, where people agree that no decisive arguments favor one alternative to another, they are still strongly opposed to resolving the dilemma by a coin toss. The robustness of this judgment-decision discrepancy is demonstrated in several experiments, where factors like the importance of consequences, similarity of alternatives, conflicts of opinion, outcome certainty, type of randomizer, and fairness considerations are systematically explored. Coin toss is particularly inappropriate in cases of life and death, even when participants agree that the protagonists should have the same chance of being saved. Using a randomizer may seem to conflict with traditional ideas about argument-based rationality and personal responsibility of the decision maker. Moreover, a concrete randomizer like a coin appears more repulsive than the abstract principle of using a random device. Concrete randomizers may, however, be admissible to counteract potential partiality. Implications of the aversion to use randomizers, even under circumstances in which there are compelling reasons to do so, are briefly discussed.


Does Competition Affect Giving?

John Duffy & Tatiana Kornienko
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, May 2010, Pages 82-103

Charities often devise fund-raising strategies that exploit natural human competitiveness in combination with the desire for public recognition. We explore whether institutions promoting competition can affect altruistic giving - even when possibilities for public acclaim are minimal. In a controlled laboratory experiment based on a sequential "dictator game", we find that subjects tend to give more when placed in a generosity tournament, and tend to give less when placed in an earnings tournament - even if there is no award whatsoever for winning the tournament. Further we find that subjects' experimental behavior correlates with their responses to a post-experiment questionnaire, particularly questions addressing altruistic and rivalrous behavior. Based on this evidence, we argue that behavior in our experiment is driven, in part, by innate competitive motives.


Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects

James Andreoni & Douglas Bernheim
Econometrica, September 2009, Pages 1607-1636

A norm of 50-50 division appears to have considerable force in a wide range of economic environments, both in the real world and in the laboratory. Even in settings where one party unilaterally determines the allocation of a prize (the dictator game), many subjects voluntarily cede exactly half to another individual. The hypothesis that people care about fairness does not by itself account for key experimental patterns. We consider an alternative explanation, which adds the hypothesis that people like to be perceived as fair. The properties of equilibria for the resulting signaling game correspond closely to laboratory observations. The theory has additional testable implications, the validity of which we confirm through new experiments.


When happiness makes us selfish, but sadness makes us fair: Affective influences on interpersonal strategies in the dictator game

Hui Bing Tan & Joseph Forgas
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2010, Pages 571-576

Does temporary mood influence how fair or selfish we are in interpersonal situations? These three experiments predicted and found that when people have the power to allocate scarce resources between themselves and others in the dictator game, positive mood increased selfishness, and sad mood produced greater fairness. In a public setting (Exp. 1), happy persons kept more raffle tickets to themselves when making allocations, and Experiment 2 confirmed this effect in the laboratory. Experiment 3 showed that mood effects on selfishness were strongest when the external norms for fairness were relaxed. The results are discussed in terms recent affect-cognition theories, suggesting that positive mood recruits more assimilative, internally focused processing, while negative affect promotes more externally oriented, accommodative processing and thus greater concern with social norms. The implications of the findings for everyday interpersonal decisions are considered.


Reference-dependent sympathy

Deborah Small
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Natural disasters and other traumatic events often draw a greater charitable response than do ongoing misfortunes, even those that may cause even more widespread misery, such as famine or malaria. Why is the response disproportionate to need? The notion of reference dependence critical to Prospect Theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) maintains that self-utility, or benefit to self, is not absolute level of wealth but rather gain or loss relative to a reference point. Four studies show that sympathy (Study 1), dictator offers (Study 2), and judgments of deservingness (Study 3a) are reference-dependent: people respond greater to victims of loss than to victims of chronic conditions. This tendency goes away when people evaluate victims in comparison (Study 3b) and when evaluating affect-poor "statistical victims", as compared to affect-rich "identifiable victims" (Study 4). Together, these results shed light on seemingly irrational patterns of humanitarian aid.


Is Reputation Good or Bad? An Experiment

Rajiv Sarin & Brit Grosskopf
American Economic Review, forthcoming

We investigate the impact of reputation in a laboratory experiment. We do so by varying whether the past choices of a long run player are observable by the short run players. Our framework allows for reputation to have either a beneficial or a harmful effect on the long run player. We find that reputation is seldom harmful and its beneficial effects are not as strong as theory suggests. When reputational concerns are at odds with other-regarding preferences, we find the latter overwhelm the former.


The evolution of cooperative hierarchies through natural selection processes

Deby Cassill & Alison Watkins
Journal of Bioeconomics, April 2010, Pages 29-42

According to a bioeconomic model called skew selection, individuals form cooperative hierarchies when coping with high risk environments that include predators and cycles of scarce resources. This paper reports a study that used agent-based computer simulations to experimentally test the predictions of skew selection. Results of the experiment showed that successful face-to-face transaction strategies varied with environmental risks. Risks involving resource scarcity favored clustering and stealing. Risks involving predators favored clustering and hoarding. A combination of risks involving resource scarcity and predators favored clustering and sharing. Wealthy donors gained safety-in-numbers to protect them from predators; at the same time, marginal recipients gained resources to protect them from starving. In summary, our findings show that even though natural selection is not a moral process, it can produce moral behavior.


Continuous punishment and the potential of gentle rule enforcement

Ido Erev, Paul Ingram, Ornit Raz & Dror Shany
Behavioural Processes, May 2010, Pages 366-371

The paper explores the conditions that determine the effect of rule enforcement policies that imply an attempt to punish all the visible violations of the rule. We start with a simple game theoretic analysis that highlights the value of gentle COntinuous Punishment (gentle COP) policies. If the subjects of the rule are rational, gentle COP can eliminate violations even when the rule enforcer has limited resources. The second part of the paper uses simulations to examine the robustness of gentle COP policies to likely deviations from rationality. The results suggest that when the probability of detecting violations is sufficiently high, gentle COP policies can be effective even when the subjects of the rule are boundedly rational adaptive learners. The paper concludes with experimental studies that clarify the value of gentle COP policies in the lab, and in attempt to eliminate cheating in exams.


How acts of forgiveness restore a sense of justice: Addressing status/power and value concerns raised by transgressions

Michael Wenzel & Tyler Okimoto
European Journal of Social Psychology, April 2010, Pages 401-417

Commonly it is understood that forgiveness means sacrificing justice. However, the present study shows that the act of forgiving can increase a sense of justice, which in turn facilitates benevolent sentiments towards the offender. University students (N = 88) imagined themselves as victims and, after the offender either did or did not offer an apology, they either were or were not instructed to express their forgiveness to the offender (via an email). Results showed that, irrespective of apology, the expression of forgiveness led to a greater sense of justice in victims, mediated via feelings of status/power and the perception of a value consensus with the offender. The feeling of justice further mediated the effects of the forgiveness expression in terms of reducing hostile emotions, revenge motivation and retributive attitudes, as well as increasing the willingness to reconcile with the offender.


Gratitude as moral sentiment: Emotion-guided cooperation in economic exchange

David DeSteno, Monica Bartlett, Jolie Baumann, Lisa Williams & Leah Dickens
Emotion, April 2010, Pages 289-293

Economic exchange often pits options for selfish and cooperative benefit against one another. Decisions favoring communal profit at the expense of self-interest have traditionally been thought to stem from strategic control aimed at tamping down emotional responses centered on immediate resource acquisition. In the present article, evidence is provided to argue against this limited view of the role played by emotion in shaping prosociality. Findings demonstrate that the social emotion gratitude functions to engender cooperative economic exchange even at the expense of greater individual financial gains. Using real-time inductions, increased gratitude is shown to directly mediate increased monetary giving within the context of an economic game, even where such giving increases communal profit at the expense of individual gains. Moreover, increased giving occurred regardless of whether the beneficiary was a known individual or complete stranger, thereby removing the possibility that it stemmed from simple awareness of reciprocity constraints.


Behaving as expected: Public information and fairness norms

Cristina Bicchieri & Alex Chavez
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, April 2010, Pages 161-178

What is considered to be fair depends on context-dependent expectations. Using a modified version of the Ultimatum Game, we demonstrate that both fair behavior and perceptions of fairness depend upon beliefs about what one ought to do in a situation - that is, upon normative expectations. We manipulate such expectations by creating informational asymmetries about the offer choices available to the Proposer, and find that behavior varies accordingly. Proposers and Responders show a remarkable degree of agreement in their beliefs about which choices are considered fair. We discuss how these results fit into a theory of social norms.


People recognise when they are really anonymous in an economic game

Shakti Lamba & Ruth Mace
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Mounting evidence that cues of being watched can enhance cooperative behaviour questions the existence of 'anonymous', one-shot, non-kin directed cooperation and the validity of using 'anonymous' economic games to empirically measure such behaviour in humans. Here we investigate how sensitive people are to such cuing effects. We test whether people playing an ultimatum game can use explicit information about experimental anonymity to override any effects of cuing in a public context, when faced with both simultaneously. The aims of our study were to investigate whether, (1) individuals respond to experimentally imposed anonymity within a public context and (2) the presence of known others affects cooperative behaviour over and above merely the presence of others. We find that proposer offers did not vary with changes in context (i.e., there was no "eyes effect") but did vary with the degree of actual anonymity and the specific presence of known others. Hence, we infer that people recognise when their decisions are anonymous or not and proposers respond to reputation concerns when they are not anonymous. Responder behaviour did not vary with changes in context, degree of actual anonymity or the specific presence of known others. Hence, responders do not respond to reputation concerns and use one uniform strategy, perhaps as long as the payoff structure remains constant. This latter finding may hint at selection in favour of strategies that uniformly ensure near-equal splits of resources in some environments, and thus manifest as strong fairness norms in a population.


Theory of mind enhances preference for fairness

Haruto Takagishi, Shinya Kameshima, Joanna Schug, Michiko Koizumi & Toshio Yamagishi
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, January-February 2010, Pages 130-137

The purpose of the current study was to examine the role of theory of mind in fairness-related behavior in preschoolers and to introduce a tool for examining fairness-related behavior in children. A total of 68 preschoolers played the Ultimatum Game in a face-to-face setting. Acquisition of theory of mind was defined as the understanding of false beliefs using the Sally-Anne task. The results showed that preschoolers who had acquired theory of mind proposed higher mean offers than children who had not acquired theory of mind. These findings imply that the ability to infer the mental states of others plays an important role in fairness-related behavior.

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