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Justice Within Social Dilemmas

Schroeder, David A
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Personality and Social Psychology Review. 7(4): 374–387.

The defining feature of social dilemma situations is the inherent conflict faced by those involved: should one act in his or her own individual best interest or sacrifice a measure of one’s personal payoff to help maximize the joint payoff of the group as a whole? In such dilemmas, those making individualistic and defecting choices are always at a competitive advantage relative to those who choose to cooperate. One seemingly inevitable consequence of the resulting resource allocation asymmetry is that it must challenge and threaten the cooperator’s sense of fairness and justice, and it is the reaction of those caught in social dilemmas to this injustice and unfairness that is the focus of this article. We examine how justice processes—distributive justice, procedural justice, restorative justice, and retributive justice—operate in social dilemmas.Within this examination, we consider ideas from classic and contemporary conceptual analyses of justice to provide a broader context within which to understand social dilemmas and the roles that justice plays as people strive to ensure fair outcomes for themselves and for others. We conclude with the proposal of a 4-stage, sequential model of justice in social dilemmas that posits groups move between the types of justice concerns when unfair and unsatisfactory outcomes (e.g., inequitable resource allocations, violations of agreed-on allocation rules, intentional and egregious exploitation of the group) cause members to “recognize the necessityâ€? for change to ensure fair and just outcomes for all. Authors’ abstract.


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