Poster C28, Sunday, March 26, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Perception of distributive justice is context-dependent as revealed by the N400 effect and behavioral data.
Benjamin Ernst1, Manuela Sirrenberg1; 1Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
As social beings, humans try to uphold distributive justice when resources are allocated. However, what is just is not always self-evident, as resource allocation can be guided by distinct principles: Merit, equality, and need. Previous research suggests that which principle is preferred is context-dependent. Specifically, it is seems that the dominant principle in an occupational context is merit, while it is equality in a private context, and need in the context of state intervention. In the present study, we propose that an allocation is considered to be particularly fair, if the applied principle fits the context. Importantly, we hypothesized that these preferences should not only manifest in explicit ratings, but also more implicitly in the form the N400, an electrophysiological marker of word processing. To this end, we asked participants to rate their agreement with statements set in different contexts (occupation, private, state intervention) describing resource allocation in accordance with a specific principle (merit, equality, need). These statements ended either with ‘is fair’ or ‘is unfair’. Ratings, as well as response times, showed the predicted pattern, clearly reflecting context-dependent preferences. Moreover, the N400 effect, i.e., the difference in activity following the final word ‘fair’ versus ‘unfair’, was most pronounced following merit-related statements in the occupational context and equality-related statements in the private context. However, this component did not reveal a dominant principle in the state intervention context. Together, our results show that the perception of distributive justice is context-dependent and suggest that justice-related preferences manifest already before the explicit rating.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Other