Conceptions of Justice/Fairness Scale

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This page is for interested and knowledgable psychology researchers to brainstorm on how to create an individual difference measure that allows us to study what people believe is fair and just. Feel free to edit things, though not all edits will be accepted or put into the final scale.

There is a discussion page here for interested parties to talk about items as well. Opportunities for credit/authorship abound! The goal is to develop a scale that we'll eventually collect data on using and perhaps using a sample near you.


Factors/Concepts of Fairness/Justice

I'm not a "justice researcher" (Ravi), so I may miss something, but looking at items and articles, I've identified 7 possible factors, which could also be heirarchically represented as follows...

1) Procedural Justice - "how should we decide who gets what" [Major cites/theorists: Tom Tyler]

2) Distributive Justice - Equity Theory - Things are distributed according to an "equity rule" which may be effort, ability, productivity, etc... "who should get what" Major cites/theorists: William Damon....] Equity - "people who contribute more should get more" [Major cites/theorists: Walster, equity theory.] This includes variations in effort ("contributions are defined by putting in more work") and Ability/Product ("contributions are defined by ability/objective worth of end product")

3) Distributive Justice - Equality - "everyone should get the same amount" [Major cites/theorists: ?]

4) Distributive Justice - Need - "people who need more should get more" [Jon thinks this must be cut; need draws on the harm/care foundation. it is a very artificial extension of fairness to say that it is only "fair" to give people what they need]

5) Interactional Justice - From Organizational Psychology...see Colquitt 2001 Meta Analysis

6) Informational Justice - From Organizational Psychology...see Colquitt 2001 Meta Analysis

7) Retributional Justice - There is evidence that punishing people for doing bad is different than rewarding people for doing good. As such, some kind of vengefulness measure might be necessary to capture the full scope of justice/fairness judgements.

More Notes:

For extended discussions of the many conflicting versions of fairness, see: --Alan Fiske, 1991, on how the "Equality Matching" model is implemented --Walter, Walster, and Berscheid, on equity theory --William Damon on the development of various forms of fairness

Possible other candidates:

So given these constructs, I feel like the next step is to look at existing measures and see which constructs are represented.

Existing scales

Here we can look at existing scales and comment on which factors items might load addition to those factors from the above section, items might be open to interpretation and load on the general "fairness/justice" idea that a person has in their head at that time. So a person who believes in equality will actually be answering a different question than someone who believes in equity when asked "is this fair?".

Colquitt 2001 Scale

Following on his meta-analysis, Colquitt created this scale which measures procedural, distributive, interactional, and informational justice.

Procedural justice The following items refer to the procedures used to arrive at your (outcome). To what extent: 1. Have you been able to express your views and feelings during those procedures? 2. Have you had influence over the (outcome) arrived at by those procedures? 3. Have those procedures been applied consistently? 4. Have those procedures been free of bias? 5. Have those procedures been based on accurate information? 6. Have you been able to appeal the (outcome) arrived at by those procedures? 7. Have those procedures upheld ethical and moral standards?

Distributive justice The following items refer to your (outcome). To what extent: 1. Does your (outcome) reflect the effort you have put into your work? 2. Is your (outcome) appropriate for the work you have completed? 3. Does your (outcome) reflect what you have contributed to the organization? 4. Is your (outcome) justified, given your performance?

Interpersonal justice The following items refer to (the authority figure who enacted the procedure). To what extent: 1. Has (he/she) treated you in a polite manner? 2. Has (he/she) treated you with dignity? 3. Has (he/she) treated you with respect? 4. Has (he/she) refrained from improper remarks or comments?

Informational justice The following items refer to (the authority figure who enacted the procedure). To what extent: 1. Has (he/she) been candid in (his/her) communications with you? 2. Has (he/she) explained the procedures thoroughly? 3. Were (his/her) explanations regarding the procedures reasonable? 4. Has (he/she) communicated details in a timely manner? 5. Has (he/she) seemed to tailor (his/her) communications to individuals' specific needs?

Moral Foundations Questionnaire

This is the Haidt/Graham measure that is available at and..

Procedural Justice If we are to fight crime effectively, some people's rights will have to be violated.

General Justice, fairness and equality are the most important requirements for a society.

Procedural Justice When the government makes laws, the number one principle should be ensuring that everyone is treated fairly.

Equity vs. Equality I think it's morally wrong that rich children inherit a lot of money while poor children inherit nothing.

Procedural Justice Whether or not someone was denied his or her rights

General Whether or not someone acted unfairly

Equality, and/or procedural Whether or not some people were treated differently than others

Procedural Justice, and equality Whether or not someone tried to control or dominate someone else

Preference for the Merit Principle Scale

This scale is by (Davey, Bobocel, San Hing, Zanna 1999).

Equality, neg equity - In work organizations, each employee ought to be named employee of the month at least once, even if he or she is not deserving. (R)

Equity (ability + effort) - In organizations, people who do their job well ought to rise to the top.

Procedural Justice - It is wrong for an employee to give a job to someone they know without advertising the job to other candidates.

General Fairness (ambiguous) - In life, people ought to get what they deserve.

Equity (effort) - The effort a worker puts into a job ought to be reflected in the size of a raise he or she receives.

Equality - When students are working on a group project, each member of the group ought to receive the same grade regardless of the amount of effort each team member puts in. (R)

Equity (effort) - Promotion decisions ought to take into account the effort workers put into their job.

Equity (effort + ability), Equality - Members of a work team ought to receive different pay depending on the amount each person contributed.

Need - Sometimes it is appropriate to give a raise to the worker who most needs it, even if he or she is not the most hard working. (R)

Equity (ability) - Qualifications ought to be given more weight than seniority when making promotion decisions.

Equity (effort) - Between two equally smart students applying for the same job, the one who is the harder worker ought to always get the job.

Equality - When a bonus is given to a work team for good performance, the money ought to always be divided equally among the group members. (R)

Need (Rev) - It is never appropriate to choose which student to hire by how much the student needs the job.

Equity (ability/product) (Rev) - People ought to be able to get away with poor quality work under some circumstances. (R)

Equity (effort) - If every person in an office has the same abilities, the promotion ought to always be given to the person who puts in the most effort.

Experiment in The Justice Motive

From The Justice Motive In Adolescence And Young Adulthood: Origins and Consequences By Claudia Dalbert, Hedvig Sallay

They gave students a short vignette about students who received the same number of points in a dictation in their native language and asked whether...

Equality Both should receive the same grade.

Need The student who needs a better grade to move up to the next year should receive a better grade.

Equity The student who made more of an effort should receive the better grade.

The Uber Justice/Fairness Scale


Some people feel that some situations are more wrong than others. Using the below scale, answer these questions as best you can as to how wrong a particular situation feels to you. These are not real situations, so there is no need to think too much about the possibilites. Instead, please answer for the general case and go with your first instinct.

Procedural Justice

Distributive Justice - Equality

Distributive Justice - Need

Distributive Justice - Equity - Effort & Ability/Production

Interpersonal justice

Informational justice

Retributive Justice - Punishment Orientation


Just to be clear and provide incentives to participate....

While I (Ravi) don't know where this project will lead, so I can't guarantee this, my goal is to have this project be a large collaboration with liberal credit awarded. If you contribute significantly to this page and it ends up in my control, I'll at least add your contribution as a footnote. If you can do data analysis, contribute a lot to the scale design, collect a sample, or help write the eventual paper, then there is likely an opportunity to be an author as long as you don't mind being on a paper with lots of others.

People to thank for providing input

(feel free to add yourself here)

Kees van den Bos Department of Social and Organizational Psychology Utrecht University

Lynn E. O'Connor, Ph.D. Professor, The Wright Institute Associate Clinical Professor, University of California, Berkeley Director, Emotion, Personality & Altruism Research Group

Malte Friese, Dipl.-Psych. Fakultät für Psychologie Universität Basel

Todd Lucas University of Michigan

Dr. Shlomo Hareli, Social Psychologist, Graduate School of Management, University of Haifa

jasia (pietrzak) asst. prof., social psychology University of Warsaw

Misc Stuff that may spur thought or hasn't been classified

differences in sensitivity to justice applied to others vs. self

It bothers me when others receive something that ought to be mine.

It bothers me when someone gets something they don’t deserve.

It disturbs me when I receive what others ought to have.

positive and negative framing

from 1986 positive negative framing paper...

1. How should a business distribute its profits justly? (b1 = material resource; c1 = positive outcome; d1 = competitive context) • The most productive workers should receive more profits. (a3 = equity) • Workers with lower wages should receive more profits, (a2 = need) • Profits should be distributed equally, (a1 = equality) 2. Due to cuts, a concern decides to shorten the workday. This decision will bring losses to employees. Which decision is just in the distribution of cuts between employees? (b1 = material resource; c2 = negative outcome; dl = competitive context) • Profitable employees should be exempt from workday cuts. (a3 = equity) • Employees with small profits who need the earnings should be exempt. (a2 = need) • All employees should divide the burden equally and rotate in workday cuts. (a1 = equality)

Equity Theory - Walster, Walster and Berscheid 1978


Equity Theory

At the risk of gross oversimplification, equity theory is premised on the relatively straightforward notion that individuals possess certain normative expectations about what is considered fair and just in any given situation. (Walster, Walster and Berscheid 1978). When that innate sense of equity and fair play is violated, victims tend to choose a strategy or technique which will most easily enable them to restore balance as they perceive it. Simple examples suffice: If he hits you, just hit him back. If she does it again, tell the teacher. If he blasts that horn at me one more time, I swear I'll slam on my brakes.

Which technique is employed can be seen as a function of its availability as well as its perceived cost to the user. Such costs, of course, may include psychological ones. In the examples above, for instance, hitting back may not be in the repertoire of socially acceptable behaviors. Alternatively, the probability of receiving a black eye in response may be considered too great a cost for physical retaliation. From the range of available equity restoring options, a cost-benefit calculation is made&emdash;sometimes very quickly&emdash;and a response is selected that suits the victim. The theory holds, further, that the less costly an equity-restoring technique, the more likely it will be used. If community norms encourage clan conferencing, elder councils, or other reparative processes, these methods will most likely be chosen.

While there are benefits to participation in a face-to-face encounter, there are also costs. Clearly, for some individuals the cost of participation, in terms of psychological anxiety, is not enough to offset the benefits of economic compensation or psychological equity provided through emotional closure. Equity theory suggests that examining issues of costs&emdash;particularly perceived psychological costs as well as perceived availability of the equity restoring technique&emdash;may be useful for exploring victim-offender mediation participation rates.

Victims who participate in face-to-face meetings may have simply adopted (or grown up with) a value orientation consistent with reparative/restorative options. In other words, participation in a victim-offender mediation program may make sense culturally and therefore represent a less costly choice. For example, many of these programs have strong developmental ties to the Mennonite Church, with its long tradition of peacemaking and alternative approaches to conflict and disputes. Within the victims’ movement itself there remains a strong, biblically-based component which speaks to the necessity of reconciliation and alternative means for obtaining social justice that are outside traditional institutions. Indeed, "system-based" programs may even be viewed with a certain amount of healthy skepticism.

Some victims may choose to participate in an alternative approach because of negative associations from prior experiences with the established criminal justice system. For others, the psychological costs of re-encountering the offender may simply be perceived as too high and they will decline participation. There will be some, however, for whom obtaining closure through a face-to-face encounter may be more appealing (psychologically less costly) than the established system. Using equity theory as an explanatory framework clearly requires us to gain a better understanding of the kinds of costs victims associate with meeting their offender versus the rewards that may be obtained by them from such encounters. Narrative theory, discussed below, is proposed as the framework that can integrate these discussions.

Fiske's Equality Matching

Jon suggested looking at this for ideas....perhaps support for a "reciprocity" factor within Equity?

 "People use just four fundamental models for organizing most aspects
   of sociality most of the time in all cultures . These models are
   Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market

   In Equality Matching relationships people keep track of the balance
   or difference among participants and know what would be required to
   restore balance. Common manifestations are turn-taking, one-person
   one-vote elections, equal share distributions, and vengeance based
   on an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for-a-tooth. Examples include sports
   and games (EM with respect to the rules, procedures, equipment and
   terrain), baby-sitting coops (EM with respect to the exchange of
   child care), and restitution in-kind (EM with respect to righting a

From 2001 Meta-analysis in organizational justice

process control (i.e., control over the presentation of their arguments and sufficient time to present their case). This process control effect is often referred to as the "fair process effect" or "voice" effect (e.g., Folger, 1977; Lind & Tyler, 1988), and it is one of the most replicated findings in the justice literature. Indeed, Thibaut and Walker (1975) virtually equated process control with procedural justice (Folger & Cropanzano, 1998). Although Thibaut and Walker (1975) introduced the concept of procedural justice, their work focused primarily on disputant reactions to legal procedures. Although a focus on justice and law continues to be of interest to scholars (e.g., Tyler, 1990), Leventhal and colleagues can be credited for extending the notion of procedural justice into nonlegal contexts such as organizational settings (Leventhal, 1980; Leventhal et al., 1980). In doing so, Leventhal and colleagues also broadened the list of determinants of procedural justice far beyond the concept of process control. Leventhal's theory of procedural justice judgments focused on six criteria that a procedure should meet if it is to be perceived as fair. Procedures should (a) be applied consistently across people and across time, (b) be free from bias (e.g., ensuring that a third party has no vested interest in a particular settlement), (c) ensure that accurate information is collected and used in making decisions, (d) have some mechanism to correct flawed or inaccurate decisions, (e) conform to personal or prevailing standards of ethics or morality, and (f) ensure that the opinions of various groups affected by the decision have been taken into account.

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