Experiments Behind the Veil: A Hypothetical Societies Approach to the Study of Social Justice

53 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2002

See all articles by Gregory Mitchell

Gregory Mitchell

University of Virginia School of Law

Philip E. Tetlock

University of California, Berkeley - Organizational Behavior & Industrial Relations Group; University of Pennsylvania - Management Department

Daniel G. Newman

Say I Can, Inc.

Jennifer S. Lerner

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: April 2002

Abstract

In two experiments, participants judged the fairness of different distributions of wealth in hypothetical societies. In the first study, the level of meritocracy in the hypothetical societies and the frame of reference from which participants' judged alternative distributions of wealth interacted to influence fairness judgments. As meritocracy increased, all participants became more tolerant of economic inequality, particularly when participants judged fairness from a redistribution frame of reference that made salient transfers among classes. Liberal participants, however, placed a greater emphasis on equality than conservative participants across all conditions. In the second study, reactions to income transfers depended on the efficiency of the transfers and the identity of the groups receiving the benefits, but conservatives placed a greater emphasis in their fairness judgments on tying benefits to workfare requirements while liberals did not distinguish between unconditional welfare transfers and workfare transfers. The implications of these results and this "hypothetical societies" paradigm for the empirical study of social justice are discussed.

Keywords: Social Justice, Distributive Justice, Impartial Reasoning Devices, Meritocracy, Efficiency, Workfare

Suggested Citation

Mitchell, Gregory and Tetlock, Philip E. and Newman, Daniel G. and Lerner, Jennifer S., Experiments Behind the Veil: A Hypothetical Societies Approach to the Study of Social Justice (April 2002). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=306564 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.306564

Gregory Mitchell (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-243-4088 (Phone)

Philip E. Tetlock

University of California, Berkeley - Organizational Behavior & Industrial Relations Group ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

Daniel G. Newman

Say I Can, Inc. ( email )

Berkeley, CA
United States

Jennifer S. Lerner

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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