The flexible fairness: equality, earned entitlement, and self-interest

Chunliang Feng, Yi Luo, Ruolei Gu, Lucas S Broster, Xueyi Shen, Tengxiang Tian, Yue-Jia Luo, Frank Krueger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The current study explored whether earned entitlement modulated the perception of fairness in three experiments. A preliminary resource earning task was added before players decided how to allocate the resource they jointly earned. Participants' decision in allocation, their responses to equal or unequal offers, whether advantageous or disadvantageous, and subjective ratings of fairness were all assessed in the current study. Behavioral results revealed that participants proposed more generous offers and showed enhanced tolerance to disadvantageous unequal offers from others when they performed worse than their presumed "partners," while the reverse was true in the better-performance condition. The subjective ratings also indicated the effect of earned entitlement, such that worse performance was associated with higher perceived feelings of fairness for disadvantageous unequal offers, while better performance was associated with higher feelings of fairness for advantageous unequal offers. Equal offers were considered "fair" only when earned entitlement was even between two parties. In sum, the perception of fairness is modulated by an integration of egalitarian motivation and entitlement. In addition to justice principles, participants were also motivated by self-interest, such that participants placed more weight on entitlement in the better-performance condition than in the worse-performance condition. These results imply that earned entitlement is evaluated in a self-serving way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e73106
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult


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