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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Third party preferences among resolutions of inequity in the criminal-victim dyad Hunt, Valerye Agnes

Abstract

Adams' (1965) equity theory provided a theoretical background for the research which examined third party response to dyadic inequity caused by negative input from one member of a dyad. Consideration of differences between first and third parties and of the possibility of negative input suggested three principles important to third party equity behavior. These were: 1) a preference for actual, rather than psychological, equity 2) a preference for positive, rather than negative, input 3) a preference for positive input rather than actual equity in case of conflict between preferences for actual equity and input positivity. Four hypotheses were derived from these principles. Hypothesis 1: When alternative solutions to inequitable situations are equal in actual equity, third parties will prefer alternatives that maximise input positivity. Hypothesis 2: When alternative solutions to inequitable situations are equal in input positivity, third parties will prefer alternatives that maximize actual equity. Hypothesis 3: When alternative solutions to inequitable situations are such that preferences for maximizing actual equity and input positivity conflict, third parties will prefer to achieve maximum input positivity rather than maximum actual equity. Hypothesis 4: When resolution of inequity satisfies preferences for actual equity and input positivity, third parties will report greater satisfaction with the solution than when resolution of inequity satisfies only one preference or involves conflict between preferences. Additional hypotheses were: Hypothesis 5: Third parties will restore psychological equity for an over-rewarded party by cognitively enhancing inputs so they are commensurate with outcomes. Hypothesis 6: Third parties will restore psychological equity for an under-rewarded party by cognitively devaluing inputs so they are commensurate with outcomes. Two studies tested hypotheses. Study I examined preferences among, and satisfaction with, different reductions of dyadic inequity. Subjects read simulated criminal cases and selected one of two alternative sentences. The actual equity and input positivity of solutions within and between conditions were manipulated by varying kind of punishment for criminals and availability of compensation for victims. Choice of sentence and satisfaction with solutions provided data for testing the first four hypotheses. Ratings of victims' attractiveness and responsibility for the offence tested Hypothesis 6. In Study II, the case summary described the sentence imposed. The actual equity and input positivity of solutions represented by sentences varied among conditions. Reported satisfaction with sentences provided an additional test of Hypothesis 4. Ratings of criminals' and victims' attractiveness and responsibility for the offence permitted tests of Hypotheses 5 and 6. Results supported Hypotheses 1, 2 and 4. The importance of preference for actual equity as a determinant of third party equity behavior was demonstrated by the finding that actual equity is more important than either input or outcome positivity. Data also indicate that a positivity principle is invoked to determine choice between equally equitable alternatives. The discussion reviews evidence indicating that preference for positive input determines choice in these cases. Data from Study II indicate that differences in satisfaction with solutions and distinct preferences among resolutions of inequity are not peculiar to decision-makers but are shared by non-participant observers as well. Data from both studies failed to support predictions that third parties who were powerless to change the real inputs or outcomes of members of dyads would restore psychological equity by derogating under—rewarded parties or enhancing over—rewarded ones.

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