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Using fairness instrumentally versus being treated fairly : a structural resolution Pillutla, Madan Mohan


Research on justice in social exchange distinguishes between fairness as a goal and fairness as an interpersonal influence strategy. Strategic fairness is considered to be epiphenomenal and explainable by more basic motives, most notably, self-interest; fairness as a goal is based only on Lerner’s (1982) model. Recent findings contribute to a new model which specifies that allocators of resources use fairness strategically while recipients treat justice as a goal by reacting to perceived injustice. This dissertation presents the model along with an experimental test of its predictions, which also addresses an ongoing debate in experimental economics on the role of fairness in ultimatum and dictator games. The experiment was designed to distinguish between fairness as an interpersonal strategy and fairness as a goal. Participants moved from allocator to recipient roles in various experimental conditions that varied their information and interdependence. Results show that ultimatum offerers made smaller offers when respondents knew how much they were dividing and larger offers when fairness was salient. Dictators made smaller offers than ultimatum offerers, but did not reduce their offers as much as ultimatum offerers when the respondent did not know how much was being divided. They appeared unaffected by the salience of fairness. Respondents rejected more small offers than large ones and more offers when they knew the amount being divided. The rejection rates of ultimatum and dictator offers did not vary. The results show substantive support for the idea that justice motives are role specific. Unexpected findings led to modifications of the model with respect to the interdependence of the actors. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for the study of justice in general and for the specific case of fairness concerns in bargaining games.

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