Vol.6 No.8 (August 2016)
Equality or Equity? Distributive Justice Perceptions in Different Work Contexts
Distributive justice is considered as an important pursuit in human social life, including two main theories: equity theory and equality theory. Proponents of the equity theory argue that it is not fair to distribute the income unequally, whereas supporters of the equality theory claim that income inequalities can be fair if they reflect relevant differences, such as workload and work effort. Based on these two theories, the domestic and foreign scholars have carried on a long-term discussion and the researches. However, those studies still have some disputes and the distributive justice perceptions in different work contexts remains unclear. Therefore, a two-person co-opera- tive task was designed to further investigate humans’ distributive justice perceptions. In our adopted task, there are two work roles. One is the translator (the people with high workload), and another is the checker (the people with low workload). The ratio of their workload was fixed. To be more specifically, the translator’s workload was triple than the checker’s. And they both have no power to decide how to divide the earned money. And after they are familiar with the whole situation, they both are required to rate three allocations (3:1, 1:1, and 1:3) on a scale that ranged from very unfair (−3) to very fair (+3). At the same time, the same work-type situation was designed as a baseline. It displayed that they tend to judge the distribution which matches the workload fairer in same work-type situation, while they tend to judge the equal allocation fairer in different work-type situation. Moreover, when the work context transitioned from same work-type situation to different work-type situation, their subjective ratings for 3:1 dropped significantly, and the ratings for the other offers increased significantly. These findings suggest that work context can influence individuals’ distributive justice perceptions. In fact, some researches pointed out that people are averse to deviations from an income distribution in proportion to their contribution. Therefore, experiment 2 was conducted to test the relationship between participants’ self-contribution to the income and their distributive justice perceptions. In experiment 2, participants not only need to evaluate the fairness of the three allocations in each of two situations, but also need to rate their self-contribution from 0% to 100%. The results replicated our findings in experiment 1. In addition, their self-contribution had no significant differences with the proportion of their workload when their work types were the same. But when their work types were different from each other, they judged the equal allocation fairer. And their contributions had no significant difference with 50%. These results demonstrate that peoples’ self-contribution perceptions are consistent with their distributive perceptions. The present findings, to our knowledge, provide further behavioral evidence for equity theory.
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