Do You Care If Someone Is Treated More Unfairly Than You? Study Says, Probably Not

A new study has found that humans are probably less concerned than previously believed about the inequity of others, according to newswise.com.

Research revealed that, "strongly influenced by their self-interest, humans do not protest being overcompensated, even when there are no consequences, researchers in Georgia State University’s Brains and Behavior Program have found."

These findings suggest humans’ sense of unfairness is affected by their self-interest, indicating the interest humans show in others’ outcomes is a recently evolved propensity, the Web site reports.

Scientists have long known that humans show sensitivity when they are at a disadvantage by refusing or protesting outcomes more often when they are offered less money than a social partner.   But the new study showed that humans, who participated  do not show any sensitivity when they are overcompensated. They conclude that humans are more interested in their own outcomes than those of others.

 “A true sense of fairness means that I get upset if I get paid more than you because I don’t think that’s fair,” Sarah Brosnan, associate professor of psychology, said at newswise.com. “We thought that people would protest quite a bit in the fixed decision game because it’s a cost-free way to say, ‘This isn’t fair.’ But that’s not what we saw at all. People protested higher offers at roughly the same rate that they refused offers where they got more, indicating that this lack of refusal in advantaged situations may not be because of the cost of refusing. It may just be because people don’t care as much as we thought they did if they’re getting more than someone else.”

The experiment involved a game in which how three offers for $100 would be split would be studied: fair (amount between $40 to $60), unfair-low (disadvantageous to the subject, amount between $0 to $20) and unfair-overcompensated (advantageous to the subject, amount between $80 to $100). Participants played 30 rounds of each game and earned about two percent of the total amount from the games.

Subjects were first told how much money they would receive and were then asked whether they wanted to reject or accept it. In the Ultimatum Game, if the responder rejected the offer, neither player received any money, leading to a fair outcome. In the Impunity Game, if the subject rejected the offer, only he or she lost the payoff, meaning the outcome was even more unfair than the offer. The subject got nothing, but the partner still got his proposed amount. In the Fixed Decision Game, the subject could choose to protest or not protest the offers, but this didn’t change the outcome for either player. This allowed subjects to protest offers without an associated cost.

In the end?  Self-interest won out.






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