Justice, Equity, and Fairness Research Paper

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The Concern for Justice—The Justice Motive

Claims for justice and protests against injustice are ubiquitous in social life. Political movements, revolutions, and wars are initiated under the banner of justice. Justice is a prominent issue in all fields of politics. The courts are swamped with law suits, and their judgments are accepted without protest or bitterness only when they are considered to be just. Perceived injustices are at the core of everyday conflicts in private life. Close relationships are put at risk by experienced injustice. Victims of misfortune have to cope with the perceived injustice of their fate and—not seldom—with being derogated and blamed by others who try to preserve their belief in a just world by reconstructing the observed misfortune as deserved.

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Humans are averse to injustice—they have a justice motive. Lerner (1977, 1980) was the first to outline the essential psychological features of the justice motive. He has emphasized the human need for justice, including the need to believe in a just world in which everybody gets what he or she deserves. Lerner has assigned the belief in a just world (BJW) a key role in his theory of the justice motive: Whenever people are confronted with injustices, their BJW is challenged and they try to preserve what Lerner calls the fundamental delusion either by efforts to restore the violated justice in the real world or to restore it mentally by reinterpreting the reality to minimize injustice. According to Lerner, people build up a personal contract whereby they are obligated to observe rules of justice, expecting that others do the same.

Can this human concern for justice be explained? And what would such an explanation mean? It is indisputable that views of what is just and what is unjust in general and in particular vary among individuals, subcultures, and cultures. Some individuals and cultures are more concerned about justice than others are. Moreover, their views are subject to intra-individual and to historical changes. It is worth exploring the sources of these variations and changes: cultural traditions, acculturation, information about the implications of applying specific rules of justice, personal and socially shared values, the impact of social roles and positions (for reviews, see Tyler, Boeckman, Smith, & Huo, 1997), personality traits, and basic belief systems (cf. Schmitt, 1994, for a review). It is not the aim of this research paper to review and discuss this kind of research. Rather, the influential theory that the concern for justice has the instrumental function of maximizing self-interest is disputed.

Justice: A Means to Serve Self-Interest?

The view that people care about justice purely as a means to pursue their own self-interest is prominent in social psychology (a review is provided by Tyler et al., 1997). It forms the core assumption in the equity theory of social exchange (Adams, 1965; Homans, 1961; Walster, Berscheid, & Walster, 1978), which states that people prefer equity as a strategic choice to maximize their individual gains within social exchanges on either the short or the long term.

Thibault and Walker (1975) took a similar approach to explain people’s preference rankings for different ways of settling conflicts with others—by negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or court decisions. They supposed that people’s pBibliography: were guided by their personal self-interests. The best strategy is to keep control over the outcome. In situations in which people have only limited control over the outcome because authorities have decisional power, people seek procedural control and attempt to influence the outcome by having a voice and by presenting arguments, their views, and evidence. Therefore, people view those procedures in which they have voice and influence as fairer than others. That means that the fairness ratings given to procedures are dependent on the indirect control over the outcome that these procedures allow.

The reasons given for this reduction of the concern for justice to a concern for self-interest mirror social contract theories in political philosophy. Philosophers—from Hobbes (1648/1970) to Rawls (1971)—have tackled the question of why individuals living in a fictional “original” prestate situation consented to build a state with powerful institutions, laws, and rules of justice. The basic answer is that it was to their best mutual advantage to restrict their egoistic fight for their own interests by establishing a system of social norms which would and could regulate their rights and obligations in competition as well as in cooperation. If this idea is generalized slightly, informal social norms (like most justice norms) can also be regarded as serving the mutual advantage of all (Hardin, 1996). Both the establishment of a state with a system of rules and of powerful institutions to ensure their observation can be considered to be rational choices in the well-understood self-interest of individuals, especially when the social system is structured in a way that even the weak, less fortunate, and less able individuals participate in the common wealth (Rawls, 1971).

For several reasons, this rational choice modeling of the justice motive is disputable.

  • What is missing in these theoretical accounts is the normative, prescriptive core of justice. Justice is an ought, a moral imperative for social life. It is not a means to achieve personal aims, but rather an end in itself (Montada, 1998a). People are obligated to observe the norms of justice regardless of whether this is in their self-interest. Moreover, they are entitled to claim justice from other actors, organizations, state institutions, and so on, not only for themselves but also for others.
  • The model does not fit to empirical data showing that justice concerns are not reducible to self-interests and may in fact conflict with self-interests.
  • There is no empirical proof of the reductionistic view of the model; it is merely an anthropological assumption. As such, it is part of a belief system and is not a testable scientific hypothesis. These three arguments are elaborated in more detail in this section.

Justice as an End in Itself

In every rational-choice explanation of the justice motive, it is not the concern for justice that is the primary motivational factor—rather, it is concerns for one’s self-interests. If justice matters at all, then it matters only insofar as it serves these other concerns. This implies that justice is not acknowledged as a prescriptive normative standard.

When the equity principle is applied, inequity is unjust and needs to be rectified. The disadvantaged are entitled to claim equity, and anybody observing inequity is entitled or even obligated to claim equity for the disadvantaged. Those who are overbenefited within an exchange relation are morally obligated to reestablish equity.

The prescriptive nature of justice norms is not dependent on the actors’ self-interest or on observers’ sympathies with the advantaged or disadvantaged party in a social exchange relationship. Of course, self-interest may motivate actors to interpret and to balance the investments and benefits to their own advantage, and observers’ sympathies with advantaged actors, for instance, may motivate them to discount the investments or overestimate the benefits of the disadvantaged in order to avoid or cope with feelings of injustice. Such biased distortions of so-called objective justice, however, do not mean that justice and its standards are disregarded. They can perhaps be interpreted as trade-offs between self-interest and justice motives, but not as a reduction of the justice motive to self-interest; this is not what Walster et al. (1978) and others wanted to explain by referring to self-interest. What they wanted to explain was why people care about justice in the first place.

Concern for justice may mean that people claim justice for themselves—for example, equitable shares in their social exchanges, voice in disputes, and so forth; it is incontestable that this serves self-interest. But concern for justice means also that people claim or (at least) that they concede justice for all parties involved, equitable shares for all actors, or equal voice for all. Equal justice for all involved does not and must not result in maximum benefits for the subject who raises these claims: Equitable shares are usually less than the maximum share, and voice may benefit the other party if he or she has the better arguments. There is consensus among philosophers of justice that the crucial test of whether actions are based on a concern for justice is whether the actor not only claims justice for him- or herself, but at least concedes justice for others, if not claiming it for them.

Of course, the rules of justice may be applied for reasons other than establishing justice. Self-interest and further concerns may provide the motivation.

  • Politicians may fight for more justice merely in order to win the votes of those whose claims they are voicing.
  • In business exchanges, equity rules may be observed because the actors expect that this will pay off in the long run.
  • Companies may expect just wages to increase efficiency by stabilizing the motivation and performance of their employees.
  • Retaliation may be used for the rational reason that it will stop continued defection (egoistical behavior) by another party.
  • Applying the rule of parity in allocations within a group may be a rational choice aimed at furthering the social cohesion of the group.
  • Responsiveness to needs of one’s spouse may express one’s sympathy and love (and may not be an application of the need principle of justice).

In these cases, justice is not the primary concern—if it is a concern at all—but rather comes into play as a means of pursuing the actors’ other concerns. This is a tactical use of justice that does not require that the actors have internalized the relevant justice principles, that they believe in their validity, or that they are convinced that these principles should be applied by everyone in similar cases. It can be assumed that concerns for justice—if they exist at all—will be trumped by the actors’ primary concerns if there ever were a conflict between the two motives.

This is not the case when justice is the actors’ primary concern or at least one of his or her main concerns. In these cases, actors are committed to establishing, reestablishing, or maintaining justice—whatever they may hold to be just. In such cases, concerns for justice are not easily trumped by other concerns.

It is well known in psychology that actors usually have more than one concern in a given situation and that different concerns may come into conflict. We need to use valid diagnostic measures to show that justice was one of the concerns taken into consideration in a given situation, even if it was ultimately trumped by other concerns. If justice was only considered for tactical reasons, actors who neglected justice in order to achieve the desired outcomes should not be expected to show signs of moral disquiet about their behavior.

In cases in which justice is a concern in itself, its neglect causes feelings of guilt and possibly also efforts to correct one’s actions, compensate for the resulting injustice, beg for pardon, excuse or justify one’s actions, minimize the unjust consequences mentally, deny the injustice by blaming the victims or the disadvantaged, and so on. These are possible indicators for the neglect of justice concerns by acting subjects.

In social interactions, the rules of justice may be neglected or violated by others. In this case, subjects’ concern for justice may be indicated by explicit claims for justice, resentment of others’ behavior, criticism of this behavior, punishment, or retaliation; but this concern may also be indicated by mental reconstructions aiming at minimizing or denying the perceived injustices, as shown in the literature on belief in a just world and observed injustices (cf. Lerner, 1977, 1980; Montada & Lerner, 1998, for overviews), as well as by coping with suffered injustice (cf. Montada, 1994). Both victims of injustices and observers who are not directly affected may have concerns for justice and have to cope with experienced or perceived injustice in one way or the other.

Empirical Evidence for the Justice Motive as a Primary Motive

Looking at empirical research, we find much evidence that does not fit the rational-choice modeling of the justice concern. Instances of resentment in which the resenting subjects do not have any vested interests of their own but nonetheless commit themselves to costly and potentially risky attempts to restore justice are especially significant in this respect. It is not unusual for social movements to be initiated and supported by people without any vested interests of their own. Think of Keniston’s (1970) study of young radicals involved in the anti–Vietnam-war movement, and of the studies Haan, Smith, and Block (1968) and Fishkin, Keniston, and McKinnon (1973) have conducted about activists in the 1960s civil rights movement. Moral orientations and social responsibility were the motivational bases identified here. Phenomena such as the survivor guilt described for Holocaust survivors (L. Baron, 1987), Hiroshima survivors (Lifton, 1967), and released prisoners of war (Lifton, 1954) demonstrate that not all people who have been favorably advantaged are able to enjoy their good fortune.

They perceive the disadvantaged victims as belonging to their own community of solidarity (Deutsch, 1985), whereby equality and need are postulated to be the preferred justice principles (Deutsch, 1975) and communal orientations are prevalent (Clark & Chrisman, 1994; Lerner & Whitehead, 1980). Managers’ feelings of guilt after layoff decisions (Lerner, 1996) indicate that members of the management feel more obligations toward the staff than expected. Guilt felt by survivors of layoffs (Brockner, 1994) is another example. As Cohen (1986) has pointed out, the application of standards of justice depends on the psychological boundaries of the community one has in mind. Susan Opotow (1996) uses the term scope of justice to depict the fact that some people draw their personal boundaries much wider than do others. Those who are concerned about global inequalities (Olson, 1997) have a wide scope of justice. If self-interest is the dominant concern, the scope of justice will not be extended to include those who are disadvantaged relative to oneself.

We have studied the ways in which relatively privileged people respond to the misery, the problems, and the poor life conditions of less fortunate others: poor people in developing countries, unemployed individuals in their own countries, physically handicapped people, and foreign guest workers with unfavorable working and living conditions (Montada, Schmitt, & Dalbert, 1986; Montada & Schneider, 1989, 1991; Montada, Schneider, & Reichle, 1988). How do people in relatively privileged life situations respond emotionally when confronted with the hardships and the misery of the disadvantaged? Do they respond with sympathy or angry reproaches, pride in their own achievements, satisfaction about their higher standards of living, feelings of guilt about their relatively privileged situations (which they may not consider to be entirely deserved), or resentment about the unjust treatment of the disadvantaged? We found large interindividual differences in these emotional responses. Guilt feelings— which in this case we called existential guilt and resentment— were with respect to their intensity normally distributed emotions in large heterogeneous samples, rather than being rare or exotic abnormalities. Guilt and resentment have meaningful correlates; some examples include perception of the existing inequalities as unjust, cognitions that one’s own higher standard of living and the lower standard of living of others are causally related, or cognitions that the inequalities could be reduced by redistribution—and preference for the need-based principle of distributive justice (over the contribution-proportional principle). It has been shown that both guilt and resentment dispose people to perform prosocial activities in favor of the disadvantaged (guilt is more closely associated with personal sacrifices, resentment with political protest). It could also be proved that guilt and resentment were not reducible to self-interests of the privileged which was also assessed in these studies—namely, in terms of fear of losses through forced redistribution and anger at the disadvantaged because of their lack of self-help. Guilt and resentment proved to be not reducible to fear of loss or to anger at the disadvantaged.

In these studies, we tried to disentangle justice and selfinterest by looking more closely at people who are better off than others are, consider their views and standards of justice violated to their own advantage, and feel morally uneasy about this situation. They feel responsible for helping to correct the injustice. Other researchers (De Rivera, Gerstman, & Maisels, 1994; Edelstein & Krettenauer, 1996) have come to similar conclusions. Such findings recall those of equity research, in which distress was observed in people who were overbenefited.

Whereas justice claims arising from a position of relative deprivation can easily be interpreted to be self-interested, this is not the case when justice is claimed for the disadvantaged by those in a more privileged position. From the perspective of rational choice theory, one could of course ask Isn’t it a rational choice, serving self-interest in the long run, to correct the gross inequalities existing all over the world, for instance, to prevent violent rebellion by the disadvantaged? The counterquestion to this would be Why guilt and resentment instead of fear of their violent efforts to restore equality—or instead of cool, strategic deliberation how to prevent their violent attacks at the status quo?

Whenever self-interest has been assessed and factor analyzed together with justice scales, the independence of these variables was demonstrated (e.g., Montada & Schneider, 1990; Moschner, 1998).

Traps of Reductionism

Reducing the number of human motives seems to correspond to the ideal of parsimony in theory construction. Of two theories, the one with fewer postulates is the more parsimonious. Such a comparison presupposes that both theories explain the same empirical phenomena and allow the same predictions. A motivation theory that posits only a small number of motives—or even a single one—would seem to be more parsimonious than would one that offers a larger number of motives.

The parsimony argument may have added to the reductionistic stance that the justice motive (as well as other motives such as altruism, social responsibility, love, etc.) can in fact be reduced to or unmasked, so to speak, as self-interest. The economic analysis of behavior (Ramb & Tietzel, 1993) suggests that a great variety of behavior (if not all) can be explained by assuming some degree of self-interest as the basic motivation. This idea is illustrated in the following examples (cf. Montada, 1998a):

  • Hypothetically, caring for disabled parents can easily be traced back to selfish motivations such as the desire to cultivate a favorable public image or to ensure that the parents do not withdraw their love or financial support.
  • Hypothetically, improvements in community or state care for the poor can be interpreted as enhancing political leaders’ chances of being elected by these less privileged voters.
  • As mentioned previously, the avoidance of opportunistic and selfish behavior can reasonably be interpreted as selfserving in the context of continued social exchanges.

The economic theory of behavior allows elegant so-called explanations of every action by tracing a path to some basic hypothetical self-interest (e.g., Baurmann & Kliemt, 1995). With some ingenuity, it is possible to generate hypotheses reducing every surface motive to an underlying self-interest, or to unmask it as ultimately serving self-interest. This kind of hypothesizing may be creative, but it clearly does not constitute valid scientific proof of the hypotheses proposed. Instead of asking the scientific question What explains X?, rationalchoice theorists ask How might a rational-choice theory explain X? (Green & Shapiro, 1994, p. 203). Bunge has therefore criticized rational-choice modeling, arguing that it has “inhibited the search for alternatives” (1989, p. 210).

Approaching the scientific task of explaining the interindividual and intra-individual variance of human behavior with a single-motive model is counterproductive because this single motive (maximizing one’s self-interest) does not contribute to the explanation of the behavioral variance. The statement that a person’s behavior is motivated by self-interest has no informational value and no scientific validity as long as alternative motives such as altruism, social responsibility, the justice motive, and moral obligation are not tested and excluded by empirical data. Furthermore, the seeming parsimony of a single-motive model is offset by the necessary increase in the number of corollary hypotheses needed to predict and explain the behavioral variance and the diversity of behaviors observed. Single-motive conceptions may best be understood as anthropological predecisions without scientific validity or utility. They are part of a belief system, not of a scientific knowledge system.

Trade-Offs Between the Justice Motive and Other Motives

Lerner (1977, 1980, 1998) has stressed the categorical normative quality of the justice motive as a primary motive and as an aim in itself. After it is internalized as a normative standard, justice imposes itself as an ought—valid for oneself and for others, not as an option that can be rationally deliberated and chosen when it seems functional for a particular goal or disregarded without moral disquiet if other options arise. Defining justice as an ought implies that unjustified violations evoke moral emotions—guilt when the subject him- or herself has failed to meet the requirements of the ought by action or omission, and resentment when others have done so (Montada, 1993).

We agree that the justice motive may come into conflict with other motives such as self-interest, but can it be trumped by egoism without remorse (cf. Lerner, 1996, on managers’ guilt after layoff decisions)? Lerner doubts whether humans can give up the fundamental delusive belief that the world is a place where everybody gets what he or she deserves— ultimately, at least. This motivated belief in a just world (BJW) is supported by what Lerner has called the personal contract to observe the rule of justice.

Lerner has contributed and instigated a wealth of empirical studies showing that the justice motive does not always appear as a straightforward application of standards of justice. Trade-offs between what one deserves and what others deserve are elaborated in specific situations, as are trade-offs between justice concerns and other concerns such as selfinterest (Montada, 1998b). The three psychologically fascinating phenomena described in the following passage can be interpreted as examples of trade-offs between justice concerns and self-interests.

Blaming innocent victims is a phenomenon observed in many experiments conducted by Lerner and his students (cf. Lerner, 1980), as well as in studies carried out elsewhere (cf. Furnham, 1998; Maes, 1998; Montada, 1998b). Blaming victims is plausibly interpreted as subjects’doing an injustice in an attempt to preserve their belief in a just world, which is or would be threatened by the victimization of innocent people. Belief in a just world can be assumed to be a psychological resource that may be defended by attributing responsibility and blame to the victims themselves, thus reframing the injustice of their victimization.

Another exciting phenomenon is the exchange fiction, discussed in more detail in works by Holmes, Miller, and Lerner (cited in Lerner, 1977) and Lerner (1980). It has been observed that many people tend to prefer buying an overpriced article when they know that the profits will go to needy people, rather than directly donating an amount of money corresponding to the price difference. The explanation for this phenomenon is that helping a needy person establishes a commitment and personal responsibility for this and other needy persons. Thus, any act of helping is problematic in several respects: It implies an acknowledgment of undeserved neediness which is threatening the belief in a just world; it creates a continuing and generalized responsibility for needy people, a responsibility that may interfere with personal concerns; and finally, it creates further injustices with respect to all other similarly needy people who have not been helped. Yet provided that they are not to blame for having inflicted their hardships upon themselves, needy people deserve to be helped. This conflict is best solved by an exchange fiction that allows the donation to be masked as a purchase.

The third phenomenon is called the free riding dilemma. Everyone will agree that free riding—profiting without investing—serves self-interests. Those who do invest resent free riders for their selfishness. A relevant observation here is that opinion polls conducted in Europe during the 1990s revealed that two thirds of employees were in principle willing to reduce their working hours and income (on average by 10% to 20%), if this would result in the creation of new jobs for unemployed persons. However, this willingness was very rarely translated into action. At least two hypotheses explain this discrepancy: (a) Self-interest (preserving one’s level of income) finally outweighs the justice motive, and (b) moving the targets of social comparison changes the objects and contents of the justice motive. When considering mass unemployment and its undeserved sequelae, it would be a just decision for the relatively privileged to share their working time and income. When comparing themselves with free riders (other full-time employees who are not willing to share their privileges), however, subjects who do choose to share would feel relatively deprived. Thus, not sharing can be justified as long as free riding is not prevented at the societal level. What at first glance appears to be selfish behavior may well be motivated by justice concerns (Montada, 1998b).

Justice: A Universal Concern with Diverging Views

The concern for justice seems to be an anthropological universal. However, there does not appear to be a universal consensus on what is considered to be just or unjust. We speak of justice in the singular as if there were only one single, just solution for every social system and for every problem or conflict; yet frequently, there are diverging views about what would be just, which criteria should be applied, and how they should be applied in order to establish justice. This is true for all domains of social life in which justice is critical: distributions, social exchanges, and the retribution and acknowledgement of deeds. The application of different standards of justice results in diverging and conflicting outcomes. A common view about what is just and what is unjust would be helpful to avoid and to settle social conflicts in private and business contexts, as well as in the political arena within and between societies.

The normative nature of justice is obvious.The aim of normative disciplines is to analyze and account for normative standards, to elaborate reasonable and just solutions for specific cases, and to conceive criteria and procedures for just decision-making. The ultimate challenge for normative approaches may be to find universally valid solutions. In view of the difficulty of that task, the focus may be displaced from the concrete solutions to the procedures of finding a solution— precisely as in discourse ethics (Ackerman, 1980) in which ideal rules of discourse are considered a guarantee for the ethical truth of the result.

It is not the aim of empirical approaches to propose the best standards of justice and the best solutions for justice problems. Instead, the following questions are investigated: What do people consider to be just and unjust? How divergent or convergent are the views about justice? Which are the belief systems and dispositions that influence people’s perceptions of justice and injustice? What is the motivational impact of experienced or observed injustice? How do people cope with experienced or observed injustices? How can justice conflicts be settled? How can one-sided views of justice be qualified? What is the impact of procedures on the appraisal of decisions?

There are interfaces between normative and empirical approaches: Philosophical theories of justice imply anthropological assumptions that need to be tested empirically (e.g., Frohlich & Oppenheimer, 1990, on Rawls’ theory of justice), and the ethical validity of empirically assessed views about justice and injustice as well as the claims for justice has to be examined normatively and cannot be taken for granted.

The Justice of Distributions

Standards of Distributive Justice

In the domain of distributions—that is, the allocation or the existing distribution of material resources or symbolic goods, rights, duties, positions, power, opportunities, taxes, and so on, within as well as between groups and populations— equality certainly constitutes the basic idea of justice. However, equality can be specified in many different ways. It may mean equal shares for all human beings or—if that is impossible or dysfunctional—equal opportunities. Alternatively, according to Aristotle, it may mean equal shares or equal opportunities for all equal human beings. This second view implies that human beings differ and that specific individual differences justify unequal allocations and given inequalities in the distribution of resources, rights, duties, and so forth (e.g., according to citizenship, social status, specific merits, professional qualifications, productivity, age, conventional rights, gender, neediness). In this sense, equality means equal shares for all those with the same status, for all those with the same kinds of merits, needs, conventional rights, and so forth. That implies unequal shares for people with different status, merits, and so forth. A particular variant of the equal opportunity rule is the equal chance rule, in which a lottery procedure is used when it is impossible for goods to be split up (e.g., in the allocation of organs for transplantation), or the rotation schedule, which may be appropriate when it would be dysfunctional for a position to be split. Equal opportunity may also mean providing similar material, physical, and social conditions for development, for a good life, for health, and so on.

Walzer (1983) somewhat neutralized the justice problems with inequalities in allocations and existing distributions by his concept of complex equality, which postulates that distributions in different spheres of justice (material wealth, social recognition in various contexts, political power, education, kinship and love, recreation time, etc.) are not perfectly correlated. Thus, a lower rank in one sphere may be compensated by a higher ranking in another. Moreover, the subjective importance of the different spheres of justice varies within a population, so that the perceived overall inequalities may be reduced further.

However, the question of which differences between people justify which inequalities in allocations and distributions remains open. In the ongoing discussions, arguments are inspired by cultural traditions and social philosophies such as egalitarianism, liberalism, social welfarism, utilitarianism, and the human and civil rights movements. We are far from having reached a general consensus on this question; the preferred standards of distributive justice vary between and within cultures and they are subject to historical changes.

This fact applies across all fields of distributive justice. For instance, the populations of postcommunist states are less tolerant of inequalities, and they claim more responsibility for individual welfare from the governments than do the populations of states with a liberal tradition (Kluegel, Mason, & Wegener, 1995). The rules of justice for the allocation and withdrawal of scarce goods such as scholarships, statesubsidized housing, jobs, and so on vary largely within and across states (Elster, 1992). In the dismissal of employees, for instance, the criteria applied include the employees’ seniority, acquired skills, current productivity, neediness, responsibility for a family, age, and gender. Although it may be possible to justify the application of each of these criteria, each could result in different decisions—not a single just solution. Therefore, the application of different justice principles can result in grossly diverging outcomes. Given this multitude of justice criteria, conflicts about which ones would be appropriate in which cases are not surprising.

Although a long list of justice principles has been identified empirically (Reis, 1984), psychological research has largely been limited to three of them: equality (equal shares for all those within specified social boundaries), allocation according to merit or to contributions (achievements, investments, etc.), and allocation according to needs. Moreover, most empirical research has focused on the application of these principles in single concrete allocations of material goods. Fewer psychological studies are available on the allocation of symbolic goods, rights, and positions, on the withdrawal of positions, or on the allocation of loads (e.g., tasks, taxes; for a comprehensive review, see Törnblom, 1992). Data have been gathered on individual pBibliography: for a particular justice principle in specific cases and contexts (e.g., Schmitt & Montada, 1981), and for culturally shared pBibliography: (e.g., Bierbrauer, 2000; Schwinger, 1980).

The Choice of a Principle

Viewingtheapplicationofajusticeprincipleasachoiceraises a question as to the goals of a specific choice: Is the objective merely to act or evaluate justly, or to avoid disharmony, to strengthen solidarity, to demonstrate solidarity, to motivate performances or effort, to punish laziness, to enhance productivity within a social system by stimulating competitiveness, or perhaps to further the health and growth of the recipients? Deutsch (1975), for instance, has argued that people who pursue economic productivity should use proportionality to contributions as the allocation principle (because this kind of allocation can be expected to motivate recipients to give their best), whereas people trying to foster enjoyable and harmonious social relationships should use the equality principle, and those aiming to foster personal growth and welfare may well consider the need principle to be appropriate.

However, as is discussed later in greater detail, these goals per se have little to do with justice. Justice as a set of social norms creates entitlements and duties (cf. Lerner, 1987). Which goals allocators pursue has nothing to do with justice unless they are actively trying to discharge their own duty to observe rules of justice, to observe the entitlements of recipients, or—in the case that they have to impose tasks, loads, and risks—the legal and moral obligations of the addressees. The relevant question, which was also posed by Deutsch (1975), is not what choice is functional for which goal, but what ought to be chosen for the reason of justice. Although equality, equity, and need are principles of distributive justice, not every allocation according to one of these criteria is for doing justice. In many empirical studies the aim of applying a specific principle of distribution— doing justice or pursuing another goal—is not adequately assessed.

For instance, Barrett-Howard and Tyler (1986) found that proportionality to contributions is more likely to be used as an allocation principle when productivity is the goal, whereas the equality and the need principles are preferred when harmony and welfare are the goals. In experimental studies, Mikula and Schwinger observed that most participants are polite when asked to propose a way of distributing joint earnings. Those who (were made believe to) have contributed more to the joint undertaking tended to propose equal shares, and those who (were made believe to) have contributed less propose that the earnings should be allocated according to the respective contributions (Schwinger, 1980). It is open to question, however, whether the participants in these studies considered their allocation proposals to be a just solution or to be functional for some other goal like social harmony.

It may well be that justice counts less in some social contexts (e.g., in intimate relationships) and situations (e.g., in emergencies) than in others. But it should be assessed whether justice is at stake or some other goal. When respondents are explicitly asked to rate several alternative criteria for allocations with respect to their justice, it emerges that the equality and the need principles are more frequently applied within close relationships (e.g., between friends or within stable cooperative working groups), the need principle is more frequently applied in health care and welfare contexts, and the contribution principle is more often used in economic contexts (e.g., Schmitt & Montada, 1981).

Social Comparisons as a Basis for Justice Appraisals

Equity Theory

Much attention has been paid to the equity theory of distributive justice—equity as a criterion in the valuation of social exchange relationships is tackled later in this research paper—which was originally developed in the context of work organizations to explore employees’ reactions to their wages and promotions (Adams, 1965). The basic components are (a) proportionality of contributions (performance, effort, invested time, expertise, etc.) and outcomes (benefits, grades, acknowledgements etc.), and (b) equal ratios of contributions and outcomes for similar actors.

Later on, the concept of equity was used in an inflationary manner and was taken as a synonym for what people subjectively considered to be just or fair, regardless of the criterion they may apply to judge whether their outcomes were equitable: contributions, status, membership, need, or others. The assumption was that equity is in the eye of the beholder (Walster & Walster, 1975). Used this broadly, equity is no longer conceived as one justice criterion or principle among others, but rather is synonymous with the justice of outcomes. The criteria used by the beholders were not assessed, probably because the authors were only interested in the prediction and explanation of the emotional and behavioral consequences of the experience of injustice, and not in the prediction of experienced injustice on the basis of specific criteria (Mikula, 1980).

Equity theory predicts that people will be satisfied when they consider their outcomes (e.g., their wages) to be equitable. They resent receiving too little and feel uneasy about receiving too much. Many studies have supported the basic assumptions of equity theory. People feel satisfied with equitable outcomes and those who feel underbenefited are angry—but also those who feel overbenefited feel uneasy (for a review, see Tyler et al., 1997). This has been demonstrated by subjects’self reports, by physiological measures of the emotional arousal (Markowski, 1988), and by observation of behaviors aimed at restoring justice (e.g., adjusting one’s job performance, cf. Greenberg, 1988). The first finding that people are dissatisfied when receiving less than would be equitable does not allow any discrimination between a justice motive and self-interest. The second finding, that people feel distressed when overbenefited, is stronger evidence for the justice motive, which is discussed in the next section.

The conclusion that equity and inequity are in the eye of the beholder does not only mean that various criteria of justice may be applied. Rather, subjects may view the values of their own contributions and benefits in an entirely different way from the way they see the contributions and benefits of others. A self-serving bias in appraisals of contributions and benefits has been identified in a few studies (Lerner, Somers, Reid, Chiriboga, & Tierney, 1991; Schlenker & Miller, 1977). Therefore, justice conflicts may also arise in cases in which all parties apply the equity principle (Montada, 2000).

The Theory of Relative Deprivation

Research on distributive justice was instigated by the concept of relative deprivation developed by Stouffer, Suchman, DeVinney, Star, and Williams (1949). These authors observed that soldiers’ satisfaction with the promotion system within their section of the army was not determined by their current position nor by the objective probability of promotion. (In fact, dissatisfaction was more prevalent in the air force than in military police although the air force had a higher promotion rate.) Rather, comparisons with similar others had a considerable impact on their level of satisfaction. They were dissatisfied when they felt that they were disadvantaged (deprived) in relation to similar others. Depending on the availability and the choice of comparison referents, people in the same objective situation may be either satisfied or dissatisfied. In most studies, the objective social situation correlates only weakly with feelings of personal deprivation. What are the circumstances leading to feelings of relative deprivation?

Crosby (1976) proposed five necessary and sufficient preconditions that can be illustrated using the example of wages. A person must (a) see that someone else has a higher wage, (b) want to have this higher wage as well, (c) feel entitled to this higher wage, (d) think it is feasible to be paid a higher wage, and (e) lack a sense of personal responsibility for not receiving this higher wage. The denial of any personal responsibility for one’s relatively disadvantaged situation is a necessary condition for feeling entitled to claim the wanted good. Feasibility can be defined by using one of the postulates in Folger’s referent cognition theory (1986): Resentment will occur when persons can easily imagine obtaining the wanted good, implying that they do not perceive any serious objective restrictions or barriers. If they do not, some actor or agency must be responsible for withholding the wanted good.

Runciman (1966) has distinguished between egoistical (personal) and fraternal (group) deprivation. The latter implies that a person views his or her social group or the social category to which he or she belongs as disadvantaged compared with another social group or category. It is remarkable that in Western societies with a liberal tradition, even large inequalities in material wealth between social groups or categories are not viewed as being unjust by the majority of the population, and consequently do not cause feelings of group deprivation (Shepelak & Alwin, 1986). This can be explained by the dominant liberal ideology that everybody is personally responsible for his or her success and welfare. When discrimination is made salient and is clearly perceived, however, feelings of group deprivation may become more prevalent.

Conceptually, group deprivation does not imply personal deprivation: The two have different comparison targets. Personal deprivation occurs when individuals perceive that they are disadvantaged compared with others of similar social status. Group deprivation is based on comparisons with groups of dissimilar status. However, high levels of group deprivation are less frequent among individuals ranking at the lower end of their group’s objective deprivation range— that is, among those who are (objectively speaking) the most deprived. In fact, the more advantaged members of disadvantaged groups are, the more likely it is that they will resent the difference between their group and more advantaged groups and engage in protest actions (e.g., Pettigrew, 1964). An explanatory hypothesis is that they compare themselves with members of the more advantaged group and feel personal deprivation in relation to them (D. M. Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). For instance, women in higher-status positions who earn significantly more money than does the average woman resent the gender-bound inequalities in earnings more than do women in low-wage groups (Crosby, 1982). Thus, relative group deprivation may be mediated by a perceived personal deprivation because the choice of comparison target may cross the borderline between social groups (Zanna, Crosby, & Lowenstein, 1987).

The 1960s civil rights movement in the United States emerged during a period in which the disadvantaged were making economic social gains. The observation that protest against discrimination becomes more probable within upward economic and social development can be explained by the hypotheses (a) that comparisons with advantaged groups become more likely (Pettigrew, 1972), and (b) that reality cannot keep pace with raised expectations and feelings of entitlement to further improvement (Gurr, 1970).

Fraternal (group, collective) deprivation has different consequences from those of personal deprivation. People are more likely to admit the existence of an unjust discrimination and disadvantaging of their group than of themselves. This corresponds to the well-known better-than-average phenomenon: I am personally better off than the average member of my group (e.g., Crosby, 1982, for women’s appraisal of justice in wages). People are more likely to engage in protest when they perceive their group as relatively deprived (e.g., Dion, 1986; Dubé & Guimond, 1986). One explanatory hypothesis is that personal deprivation is more likely to be associated with symptoms of depression than with outrage against an unjust system (Hafer & Olson, 1993). Another hypothesis is that protest against personal relative deprivations can be attributed to envy, an emotion and motive that has negative connotations. Protest against fraternal relative deprivation means both solidarity with one’s group and a fight for more social justice: Both motivations are respectable. If oneself is better off than the average of one’s group, one’s protest even has a prosocial—not an egotistical—touch (Montada, 2001a).

Relative deprivation theory emphasizes the role of perceived injustice in comparison to referents in the emergence of resentment and assertive actions both in the personal context or in the political arena. But the theory does not specify which standards of justice are applied, nor which referents are chosen for comparison by whom—nor does it specify any other antecedents. Therefore, relative deprivation theory works well as a post hoc framework for interpretation. It is less suited to predict resentment and protest. For instance, the spectrum of options for choosing comparison referents and standards of justice is large, and these choices are motivated whether they are deliberated or spontaneous. Those who are motivated to avoid or reduce feelings of unjust discrimination have the option of downward comparisons. Findings revealing that the majority of subjects state that they are personally better off than the average member of their social group demonstrates the motivated nature of this choice (Crosby, 1982; S. E. Taylor & Brown, 1988). The majority of those belonging to disadvantaged groups tend to avoid comparisons with advantaged groups (Major & Testa, 1988), or to underestimate the size of the inequality (Wegener, 1987). These and further coping strategies may help them to keep an emotional balance by controlling feelings of injustice.

The question of how an active movement against injustice arises has led to many explanatory hypotheses (Major, 1994; J. Martin & Murray, 1986). Latent feelings of relative deprivation may be madeconscious as a result of public condemnations of existing discrimination and injustice. Participation in public protests may be dependent on a rational calculation of the expected personal costs and benefits, on the strength of one’s feelings of solidarity with one’s group, and of moral obligations to support it. Participation may be triggered by outrage. Outrage against group relative deprivation may be inflamed by unexpected and noticeably unjust losses and loads decreed by those in power (Moore, 1978), especially when losses were preceded by upward economic and social development that has set higher standards for the appraisal of the present unsatisfactory state (Davies, 1962). The justice principle violated is the right to preserve the status quo and to preserve the present conditions of life and the acquired rights, an issue that is referred to very frequently in political disputes. Latent feelings of group relative deprivation may flare up as a reaction to events of enraging victimization of members of the own minority group; such reactions may explode collectively in riots, especially when the state authorities violate their duties by contributing to the unjust action or by failing to intervene in ongoing victimization (Lieberson & Silverman, 1965): The withholding of basic civil rights by representatives of the state is especially enraging.

The cases referred to by Moore (1978) and by Lieberson and Silverman (1965) are characterized by an unequal distribution of power. If the disadvantaged groups do not see the possibility to push through their claims by taking legal action, outrage may bring the empowerment to take collective action to correct disadvantageous decisions, to change the power structure, or to retaliate the victimization.

Justice in Social Relations

Justice in social relations means justice with respect to the exchanges between the members of social systems, the exchanges between social groups, corporations, and organizations, and between individuals and institutions—but it also concerns the exchanges of casual encounters.

Forms and Contents of Social Exchanges

Exchanges are ubiquitous in social life—between individuals, groups, organizations, and states, between individuals and groups, individuals and organizations, and so forth. Exchanges may be direct, for instance, when two individuals express their liking for one another, conclude a contract, or attack one another. Exchanges may also be indirect, for instance, when an individual donates money to a charity that provides help to people in need, or when the state collects taxes from its citizens, using this income to pay for education, law and order, and so on. Exchange relationships may be sequentially chained. For instance, each adult generation cares for the welfare and development of the younger generation, as well as the welfare of the aged parent generation. The next generation will in turn do the same, thus abiding by the terms of the generation contract.

What are the contents of social exchanges? Not only products and money, but also status (e.g., by a marriage or by granting citizenship), commitment to a relationship, attentiveness, information, services, support, good mood, love, loyalty, and—on a less positive note—burdens (such as health problems, addictions, and depression), criticism, blame, harm, mistrust, and hostility.

What Is Fair and Just in Social Exchanges?

Fair Contracts

The contract is a prototypical form of social exchange. Contracts are regarded as just when the partners are equally informed and equally free to consent (Nozick, 1974). Justice is threatened if relevant information is withheld, if pressure is exerted, or if one party is not free to refuse to enter into the contract because of a certain predicament.

Because contracts are of eminent importance in social life, many legal norms have been established that specify the obligations of the partners to provide all relevant information, to observe the contractual agreements, to respect social norms in the contents of the contract, and so forth. A contract only has to be fair ex ante: Valid contracts have to be fulfilled, even if they turn out to be unfavorable for one party because of circumstances beyond the control of the contractual partner (e.g., unexpected significant changes in market prices). Moreover, specific legal regulations have been established to protect the supposedly less powerful parties— with respect to rent control, industrial law, and product liability.

Laws and Social Role Norms

Legal regulations have also been established for many noncontractual relationships, specifying the rights and duties of the exchange partners (e.g., married couples, parents and children, administrations and citizens, police and citizens, etc.). Most important is, of course, the criminal law (addressed in this research paper’s section on retributive justice) containing negative exchanges that are banned by law in a society.

Many exchange relationships are regulated not by laws but by informal social norms, for example, by the system of reciprocal social roles. Many normative scripts for social roles are conventional in character.They prescribe the rights and obligations of the actors, and they shape the normative expectations held by the actors and by the public with respect to the reciprocally related roles. Further regulations are found in the behavioral codes of professional associations, in public conventions regarding politically correct behavior, in the rule systems of sports, in the bylaws of organizations, and so forth. These legal and conventional rule systems correspond to and are shaping the sense of justice within the population.

Justice Principles

Many social exchanges are not subjected to legal or rolebound norms but still have to be fair and just. Which standards of justice are operating here? Modified forms of the equality criterion are standards for appraising the fairness of exchange relationships, especially the principles of reciprocity and equity. Social exchanges are regarded as just if reciprocity is established. This is true for positive exchanges, in which equal mutual advantage is the normative standard, as well as for negative exchanges, as portrayed in the biblical rule of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Equal mutual advantages have also been postulated in Hobbes’ (1648/1970) social contract conception of the state and in the sociological theory of role-bound exchanges (teacher-student, physician-patient, employer-employee, leader-follower; cf. Parsons, 1951). However, the general truth of Parson’s equal–mutual-advantage assumption for reciprocal social roles has been criticized with good reason (Gouldner, 1960): Some social roles or positions are certainly more attractive, powerful, prestigious, and profitable than others. And the equal opportunity assumption, which means that all citizens have equal opportunities to receive the more favorable positions, is illusory.

Equity has been proposed as the normative standard for social exchanges, implying equal ratios of investments/costs and outcomes/benefits for all parties involved (Homans, 1961). Equity is to assess easily only when the investments and outcomes are quantifiable—for instance, in money equivalents. This is possible for market exchanges.

The claim that equity is the general justice principle in exchange relationships (Walster et al., 1978) is exaggerated. One reason is that equity theory is too vaguely defined to be applicable in qualitatively and structurally different relationships. How should the ratio of contributions to benefits be calculated, for example, for the employer and the employee, the mother and the child, the players in a tennis match, or the victim of an accident and his or her rescuer? All actors in these relationships have obligations or entitlements, but they are not entitled an equal ratio of contributions to benefits. The entitlements are based on contracts, on particular social and moral norms, or on the norms of fair play. Every citizen maintains an exchange relationship with the state. The citizens and the state (in the same way as the insured and their insurance companies) have reciprocal rights and obligations that cannot be represented in the equity formula. Nevertheless, the relationships can be evaluated as just if all parties meet their obligations.

The equity principle is less precise than it was contended to be in more informal social exchanges, in which its assessment is based on subjectively focused and subjectively valued exchanges (of goods, services, love, respect, trust, loyalty, harm, negligence, hostilities, etc.), and indirect and chained exchanges (e.g., services to third parties or to the community that are of indirect benefit to the exchange partner) may or may not be included in subjective evaluations. Nevertheless, it has been proposed as the justice principle in social relations, even in close personal relationships. As it is worthwhile to have a closer look at close relationships this issue will be taken up in a later section.

Implicit Contracts Within Social Relationships

Not every aspect of a relationship can be explicitly articulated in a contract. For instance, employment contracts imply that employees use working time for the employer and not for private interests, that they are conscientious, that they do not misuse the contract by spying for a competitor, and so on. In return, the employer does not require employees to perform inappropriate tasks (e.g., those that are below the employee’s qualification level) and also takes care to ensure a safe working environment.

Moreover, existing, practiced relationships create new, contract-like expectations. For instance, significant changes in the task structure that was practiced for a long time by an employee cannot simply be assigned by the employer to the employee; rather, they have to be negotiated. People believe that employers have obligations to their current employees but not to those requesting employment (Kahneman, Knetsch, & Thaler, 1986). There is a widespread view that seniority (defined here as the length of continuous employment with an employer) is an important factor protecting against layoff in the case of workforce reduction (Elster, 1992; Engelstad, 1998). The period of notice that tenants must be given is dependent on the length of the tenancy; in many countries, this issue is regulated by law. People are expected to keep to existing exchange relationships, even if the prevailing market situation would allow one party to make more profit elsewhere. Rousseau has investigated the implicit psychological contracts (and the entitlements derived from them) that are built up in ongoing relationships (Rousseau & Anton, 1988; Rousseau & Parks, 1993). Respectful treatment, meaningful work, and a safe working environment constitute important parts of these implicit contracts.

It may well be that the perceived quality of an existing relationship shapes the expectations of what would be an appropriate reciprocal treatment. And these expectations have a normative character; violations may be valuated as undeserved. One limit, however, is that people, as mentioned previously, consider different justice rules as appropriate depending on the kind of the relationship (e.g., equal distribution or distribution according to needs within close relationships but equitable distributions in market exchange). Relationship issues are also an important topic of procedural justice research (Tyler et al., 1997) and are addressed later in this research paper. The way people are treated by authorities—as representatives of social systems, communities, or social groups—is informative with respect to their social status. If the treatment is not felt to be in accordance with their subjective entitlements, it is considered unjust. These entitlements are part of implicit psychological contracts.

Entitlement to Respectful Treatment

One aspect of social interactions has attracted much attention in justice research—respect. Miller (2001) has recently provided an excellent review. A few examples are mentioned here. Lind and Tyler (1988) have stressed the eminent importance of respectful and decent treatment in their group value theory of procedural justice. Mikula (1986) studied unjust experiences of students in daily life and found frequently mentioned unjustified accusation and blame, the giving of orders in an inappropriate form, and ruthless misuses of status and power (see also Clayton, 1992). Bies and Tripp (1996) found that humiliation and wrongful accusation by superiors were instances of reported injustices. Insult and disrespectful treatment have been identified as powerful instigators of resentment and aggression (R. A. Baron, 1993; Bettencourt & Miller, 1996; Folger & Skarlicki, 1998; Heider, 1958). People in general seem to expect respect from others in social interactions, and they seem to feel entitled to respectful treatment and interaction. The right of being treated with dignity is the first of the human rights. However, what respect and disrespect mean in concrete social encounters may vary a lot between individuals, settings, kinds of relationships, social groups, subcultures, and cultures. Nevertheless, what has been named interactional justice (Bies & Moag, 1986) seems to be agreed upon in psychological contracts about a code of conduct (Robinson, Kraatz, & Rousseau, 1994; Rousseau, 1995) defining what is and what is not acceptable in a relationship. As the code of conduct frequently is neither explicitly articulated nor negotiated between interaction partners, the normative expectations have to be derived from observed resentment and reproaches, from aggressive responses, and from further behavioral manifestations of feeling violated (e.g., withdrawal, reduced commitment, cf. Miller, 2001). These responses function also as a measures to educate the offender whose apologies and remorse are healing the relationship (Ohbuchi, Kameda, & Agarie, 1989; Montada & Kirchhoff, 2000). The range of normative expectations may encompass the acknowledgement of expertise, performances and efforts, granted supports, loyalty, consideration of one’s preferences, sympathies, aversions, fears, handicaps, and vulnerabilities: All these have to be respected. Moreover, codes of politically correct behavior and language that have to be respected have gained much attention.

Disrespect is experienced as an offence to the personal and social identity. Some of the victims’ responses to disrespect are meant as a defense or restoration of their violated self (Vidmar, 2000). In case of public disrespect, the aim of responses may be to restore social status in the eyes of others. Violent acts may have these functions to restore the selfesteem and social status (Megargee & Bohn, 1979; Toch, 1969; for a review, see Streng, 1995)—evening the score by retaliation (Greenberg & Scott, 1996).

The motive to even the score may also be given in responses like reduction of commitment at the workplace or in close relationships, reduction of trust, and silent or explicit rejection of proposals. The positive effects of respectful treatment by authorities on the acceptance of their decisions and on generalized trust in them (Lind & Tyler, 1988) mirror this hypothesis in positive terms.

Justice Within Close Relationships

“The rule most frequently advocated as the rule governing all relationships, including intimate ones, is equity” (Clark & Chrisman, 1994, p. 17). Participants are expected to be more satisfied with the relationship, which is in turn expected to be more stable when equity is realized. Participants strive to make inequitable relationships equitable by changing their contributions, their expected outcomes, or both by requesting change in the contributions made by their partners or by reappraising their own or their partners’ contributions and outcomes (Walster et al., 1978). Because equity is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak, reappraisals may be functional for establishing subjective equity.

It is indisputable that exchanges can be balanced on various dimensions (e.g., those emphasized by Foa and Foa (1980)—love, status, money, material goods, services, and information): Information can be compensated by money, services by love, and so on. In our culture, parents typically do not expect that their investments into their children’s care, development, and education would be reciprocated by the children. Instead, they feel more than compensated when they are loved by their children. To assess whether a relationship is considered just, one has to look at the balances that are actually made. The global measure of equity generally used in research—that is, asking subjects what they contribute to a relationship and what they get out of it—relative to their partner(s) is unsatisfactory. The precise balances have to be specified if we are to learn how appraisals of equity and inequity are generated.

One major problem is the validity of global measures of equity. Respondents who do not really balance contributions and outcomes for themselves and for their partners may use the terms equity and justice synonymously. Detailed measures across numerous exchange dimensions—which may additionally be weighted according to personal importance— are possible, however (e.g., Lujansky & Mikula, 1983; Van Yperen & Buunk, 1994). The correlations between detailed and global measures are generally modest or near zero (Sprecher & Schwartz, 1994). Thus, using global measures of equity does not really clarify which justice standards are actually used by respondents.

Nevertheless, in accordance with hypotheses derived from equity theory, some studies have found that not only respondents who feel deprived compared to their partner but also those who feel advantaged are less satisfied with their relationship than are respondents who perceive their relationship as equitable (Buunk & van Yperen, 1991). The effects of equity ratings on satisfaction in the partnership and the stability of the relationship are, however, generally weak or nonexistent (Sprecher & Schwartz, 1994).

Thus, we do not have robust evidence in favor of the equity model in close relationships, such as those between family members, in intimate partnerships, and best friendships. Research about justice in close relationships is reported and reviewed in a volume edited by Lerner and Mikula (1994) and a special issue of Social Justice Research (Vol. 11, 3) edited by Mikula (1998). One might question whether justice actually matters at all in these kinds of relationships, which ideally are characterized by mutual love, trust, and caring. However, as Desmarais and Lerner (1994) argue, the degree of “closeness” is not the same at all times and for all parties, and it may vary from an identity relationship (in which the parties’ identities are merged), to a unit relationship (in which equal but independent partners cooperate), and even to a nonunit relationship (in which the parties compete with one another). According to Desmarais and Lerner (1994), strong effects of equity ratings on satisfaction are not to be expected within identity relationships—“where meeting a partners’ needs is most likely to create harmonious relations, while equal and reciprocal treatment may be alienating in close relationships” (p. 45)—in which the partners are not looking for long-term reciprocity. In a study with married couples, Desmarais and Lerner found that, for respondents who believe that they are in an identity relation with their partner, satisfaction with the relationship correlates higher with the partner’s outcomes than with the respondent’s own outcomes.

Lerner’s distinction of an identity relationship from a unit and a nonunit relationship (Lerner & Whitehead, 1980) corresponds to Clark and Mills’ distinction between the communal-versus the exchange-norm orientation in intimate partnerships (1979). The communal-norm orientation means feeling responsible for and being responsive to the other’s needs without expecting repayment. It is satisfying enough to meet the other’s needs. The partner’s outcomes are no less important than one’s own outcomes; on the contrary, they take precedence. Extending the authors’ argumentation slightly, the following could be stated: Whereas with exchange-norm orientations, outcomes (benefits) are balanced against inputs (costs), in communal-norm orientations the ratio between outcomes and costs is not decisive because one’s own inputs are viewed not as costs, but rather as welcome opportunities to meet the partner’s needs.Any ensuing rewards are interpreted not as profits on one’s own investments, but rather as an expression of the partner’s affection and love.

However, conflicts are not unusual in close relationships, and because these conflicts are essentially justice conflicts, it is worthwhile to examine which justice principles are applied when conflicts occur. As long as an identity relation exists, all investments, all self-sacrifices, and all burdens are not balanced with one’s outcomes, but the balances may be made when the partner withdraws his or her love (Montada & Kals, 2001).

Research by Cate and colleagues (Cate, Lloyd, Henton, & Larson, 1982; Cate, Lloyd, & Henton, 1985) and Desmarais and Lerner (1989) has shown that the level of received rewards (e.g., in the six resource areas of love, status, services, goods, money, and information) predicts relationship satisfaction better than does global equity (and equality as well), regardless of whether the relationship is traditional or modern in terms of gender-role orientation (M. W. Martin, 1985). Do these findings mean that self-interest is the dominant motive in close relationships? To answer this question, the partner’s rewards (stemming from the respondents’ own responses to their partner’s needs) also need to be assessed. It may well be that those relationships that both partners experience as rewarding are satisfying. One kind of empirical findings seems to support this interpretation: Rusbult (1987) and Hays (1985) found that own rewards minus costs (investments) predict relationship success less well than own rewards plus costs (which may mean the partner’s rewards). The latter index may reflect the mutual responsiveness of the partners to each other’s needs (Clark & Chrisman, 1994).

An exchange orientation implies the normative expectation that one’s own investments (definable as the material, social, and personality resources one brings into the relationship) will be repaid or yield profits—if not immediately, then in the long run. This economic view of close relationships would suggest that partners keep track of their own investments and outcomes and—in the equity version of the model—of their partner’s as well. The few studies investigating this aspect have found that respondents who desire or already have communal relationships do not tend to keep track of the respective investments and outcomes (Clark & Chrisman, 1994). Furthermore, as shown by Grote and Clark (1998), communal relationships represent the widely preferred ideal for partnerships. In the same study, these authors found the perceived fairness of the distribution of housework and child-care responsibilities to be positively related to adherence to communal norms in the partnership (for women) and negatively related to an adherence to exchange norms (for men and women).

However, it is open to question whether the responsiveness to the other’s needs, which is typical for a communal orientation, is motivated by love, sympathy, altruism, or justice. The justice motive implies an awareness of the partner’s entitlements and of one’s own perceived obligations. Love and sympathy, same as altruism, may motivate to satisfy the other’s desires and needs without conceiving these as entitlements and without feeling obliged to do that. In social relationships, applying the need principle of justice, feeling sympathy with the needs of the loved one, and being altruistic may motivate an actor to choose the same behavioral commitments. Nevertheless, the justice motive and sympathy, altruism, and love are distinct motives, and conflicts between them may occur or be induced (cf. Batson, 1996). The behavioral commitments are not informative with respect to the question how they are motivated. We need valid assessments of the actors’motives behind their responses to the needs of a loved one. To assume a justice motive, one has, at least, to ask respondents explicitly about the others’ entitlements or their deservingness. Another approach is to observe or ask respondents about their emotions that imply perceived own violations of justice norms, namely feelings of guilt or of indebtedness—and to explore the justice appraisals assumed to be necessary components of these emotions.

The justice motive may also be inferred from resentment of the partner. Freudenthaler and Mikula (1998) offer an example of this approach with their investigation of women’s sense of injustice regarding the unbalanced division of housework. In their interview study with employed women living in a partnership, perceived violations of entitlement are predicted by four variables related to household chores: unfulfilled wants, social comparisons of their partner’s with other men’s commitments, normative social expectations of partner’s commitments, and lack of justification as to why their partner is contributing less than expected. Perceived violations of entitlement together with attributions of responsibility to the partner and lack of justification predicted 53% of the criterion variable blaming the partner. This set of variables includes the key variables for the perception of injustice: entitlements on the basis of some justice norm and violation of these entitlements by a responsible actor who does not have convincing justification (cf. Lerner, 1987; Montada, 1991). To predict perceptions of violated entitlements, it is necessary to assess the justice norms applied by the individual.

Another example based on a similar conceptual model offers a questionnaire study conducted by Reichle (1996) about losses and restrictions experienced by spouses after the birth of their first child. Anger (resentment) toward the spouse was predicted by attributing responsibility for one’s own losses and restrictions to the spouse, which was moderated by the perceived injustice of the losses and a negative balance of perceived gains and losses (explained variance = 74%). Marital dissatisfaction was explained by anger toward the spouse, extent of the experienced losses, number of losses attributed to the spouse, and attribution of responsibility for the losses to the spouse (explained variance = 77%). Within this sample, strong pBibliography: for using the equality and the need principle in distributions of tasks, opportunities, and restrictions (in contrast to gender specific traditional norms) and strong pBibliography: for negotiations as the just way to proceed in cases of disagreement were observed (Reichle & Gefke, 1998).

The Effects of Social Exchanges on Third Parties

Assessing the justice of social exchange relationships would be incomplete without examining the effects of exchanges on third parties. Adverse effects of exchange relationships on third parties raise justice problems—but to my knowledge, they have not yet been an object of psychological research.

Contracts that are fair to the contractual parties may incur serious disadvantages for others. For instance, cartel contracts may be fair for the contract parties, but they are made at the expense of others. Exclusive contracts of sale put other suppliers at a disadvantage. Granting government subsidies to a big company in financial trouble may be viewed as fair by its employees but as unfair by its competitors. Labor contracts between employers’organizations and unions may be viewed as a fair distribution of profits but may cause rationalization measures leading to the dismissal of part of the workforce, or they may prevent the expansion of the workforce, which would have provided jobs for the unemployed. Even in close relationships, adverse effects on third parties are not unusual. Parents may enjoy the loyal support of their partner in cases of conflict with their adolescent child who in turn considers this loyalty to be a coalition at his or her own cost.

Therefore, it is adequate to expand the view from the directly concerned exchange parties and to examine the consequences for others and for the social system.

The Justice of Retributions

The phrase retributive justice normally means the justice of retribution for crimes and negligence, as well as the justice of compensations for caused damages and harm. However, special achievements (intellectual, artistic, moral, etc.), especially those that go beyond the call of duty, are also to be repaid or acknowledged. Because the justice of acknowledgement of special achievements has received little research attention thus far, it is only mentioned here; the retribution for crimes and negligence is treated in more detail.

Just Retribution and Punishment

Though just retribution for crimes is anchored in criminal law, in criminal justice proceedings, and in precedents in court judgments, empirical social and behavioral sciences can contribute significant insights, because the sense of justice held by the general public does not perfectly coincide with that reflected by the legal code and court decisions.

What is just retribution for the violation of criminal law? A first answer could be reparation for the damages caused, analogous to the equity principle of social exchanges. Such regulations exist in the civil code, as can be seen in liability laws: The defective product must be replaced; the damage must be compensated; the price must be reduced if services are insufficient; the caused secondary costs (expenses, opportunity costs) are to be balanced out. Compensation for damages is not a prevalent goal in criminal justice.

For most people’s sense of justice, equitable compensation would be an inadequate atonement for a crime. This is true not only for crimes which have caused irreversible losses: How could, for example, the murder of a person, permanent health impairments following a physical injury, or psychological damage caused by terror or humiliation be compensated? This is generally true because the violation of criminal law means a violation of the moral consensus without which the social community cannot survive (Miller & Vidmar, 1981). Regardless of the amount of damage, this injury to the moral code of society demands punishment. The violation of the basic values of the community, those which make up its identity and its self-esteem, as well as violation of the sacred symbols of a society (e.g., its religious tenets, its flag) demand retribution. The primary purpose of retribution is atonement.

The rational-choice model also offers an explanation of why compensation alone is insufficient. If the bank robber could compensate the crime simply by returning the money, there would be no deterrent: He or she could attempt it again and again without risk, in the hopes of one day not being caught. Therefore, retribution must be independent of compensation for damages. Alongside atonement and compensation for damages, a third purpose in legal punishment is deterrence, which is supposed to have an effect on the perpetrator as well as on the public at large. Additional functions of legal punishment are considered: building up or reinforcing a sense of justice in the population, resocializing the perpetrator, and protecting the community by incapacitation of the offender (e.g., by imprisonment or death penalty).

Analyzing the valuations of the various functions of legal punishment, Vidmar & Miller (1980) identified two main motives: a controlling and a retaliation motive. The retaliation motive emphasizes the perpetrator’s guilt and the severity of the crime. The function of atonement is placed in the foreground. The controlling motive aims at keeping the criminal in check and protecting society. Of importance are the dangerousness of the criminal and the degree of harmfulness of the crime. Miller and Vidmar also differentiate the motives according to whether they are directed at the perpetrator or at a third party: A motive for retaliation can also be to dampen public outcry. We should take this psychological analysis a step further and distinguish between deterring the perpetrators and resocializing them because different measures seem to be appropriate for those two goals.

It is remarkable that the victims of crimes are only marginally considered in the functions of retribution, if at all. In fact, in the historical development of criminal justice in the modern age, the main focus was protecting society and guaranteeing fairness to the perpetrator, not to providing justice to the victim. For a long time, the victim played exclusively the role of a witness in criminal proceedings. The witness does not have a powerful role: He or she does not control the procedure, and his or her credibility and reputation may be doubted. Only recently have victims had the right to function as joint plaintiffs in such crimes as rape and bodily injury, thereby gaining a bit more control in the course of the trial; this should be relevant for their assessment of procedural justice, according to hypotheses forwarded by Thibault and Walker (1975). Whether the victim received justice was of no concern to the criminal justice system. Victimology has finally taken the rights of victims seriously—for example, their need for acknowledgement of their status as victims, which will be documented by the conviction of the perpetrator (Fischer, Becker-Fischer, & Düchting, 1998).

The various goals of legal punishment may conflict with one another and thus create their own problems of justice: Is theretributivesentencingofayoungoffenderforrobberywith grievous bodily harm to the victim just, or is a mild sentence with an attempt at his resocialization more just?When general deterrence is the objection, the mitigating factors associated with the individual offense may easily be overlooked.

Perpetrator’s Responsibility and Blameworthiness

In criminal law the severity of the crime is the first decisive factor in determining the degree of guilt and blameworthiness of the offender (recognizable by the range of penalties for a crime). Moreover, mitigating and aggravating circumstances are considered. Special importance is given to the assessment of the offender’s responsibility for the criminal act and to potential justifications of this act. This practice coincides with the sense of retributive justice in the public.

Aguilty verdict presupposes the attribution of responsibility to the perpetrator. The assessment of the defendant’s responsibility is a core problem in jurisprudence. Defendants may use any of eight arguments to deny or to diminish their responsibility for their behavior and its consequences (cf. Hamilton & Hagiwara, 1992; Heider, 1958; Montada, 2001b; Semin & Manstead, 1983):

  1. Denial of agency. Persons may deny that their behavior was under their voluntary control. Reasons given for the lack of volitional control include lack of competence, fatigue, external influences, effects of drugs, intense affects, and so on. In the courtroom, for instance, insanity, intense emotional states, or being under the influence of drugs are sometimes accepted as factors that exclude or reduce actors’ responsibility for their deeds.
  2. Lack of foreseeability of consequences. Persons may deny that the consequences of their actions could have been foreseen.
  3. Lack of intent. Persons may deny that the negative effects of their actions were intentional; this may lower the degree of responsibility assigned to them, but does not free them of responsibility in every case (Heider, 1958). The person may be judged not to be malevolent, but he or she may still be blamed for carelessness.
  4. Assigning coresponsibility to others. Persons may try to reduce their own responsibility by attributing responsibility to coactors.
  5. Displacing responsibility. Persons may deny their own responsibility by ascribing the responsibility for their actions or omissions to others, asserting that they were seduced, persuaded, misinformed, or forced by these third parties.A special subcategory of this type is the displacement of responsibility to authorities who have given orders for the action to be taken.
  6. Mental retardation and developmental immaturity.
  7. Lack of adequate socialization and education. Disadvantaged childhood and adolescence, deficient socialization, and a lack of education are arguments frequently used by lawyers to deny the defendant’s responsibility, because these factors are widely believed to cause behavior disorders.
  8. Denial of having caused damages or harm. Even if the person does not deny responsibility for an action or omission, he or she may deny the presumed effects of that action, either by doubting the existence of any harm or damage or by denying that harm or damage was caused by the action or omission in question.

Apart from arguments to deny or diminish responsibility, blameworthiness can be reduced by justifications of one’s action or omission. Justifications do not deny responsibility. Rather, they offer reasons such as the following that are expected to reduce their blameworthiness and liability for compensation:

  1. Persons may make reference to their benevolent intent or to the positive effects or benefits of their actions or omissions. They may claim that any negative effects are balanced out by positive ones.
  2. Persons may assert that the victim had been informed and had consented (e.g., to participate in a high-risk medical research program or to engage in sexual contact).
  3. Persons may legitimize their action as a just retaliation or punishment. The victim is viewed as an offender who deserves to be punished.
  4. Persons may derogate the victim as being inferior or dangerous, and may assert that their own actions are appropriate for this kind of person (cf. Bandura, 1990, on dehumanization of victims).
  5. Persons may justify their actions by referring to legitimate self-interests, whether personal or communal.
  6. Persons may legitimize their actions by referring to their normative obligations or higher-order values (e.g., group norms, obligations of obedience, religious norms).
  7. Persons may interpret their action as defense of their reputation (e.g., their face, so to speak).
  8. Persons may legitimize their action by referring to consensus information, either that “most people act or would have acted the same way” or that “most people approve of the legitimacy of the action.”

Arguments to deny or diminish responsibility on the one hand and justifying arguments on the other may be presented by defendants (cf. Sykes & Matza, 1957, on the defense pleas of criminals in general; Deegener, 1997, on men charged with sexual child abuse), or by the defendants’ representatives. Even victims trying to cope with intense outrage and hatred against the offender may use such arguments to calm down their emotions.

There is much empirical proof suggesting that the punitiveness of victims as well as that of observers who were not directly affected is dependent on the attributed level of offenders’ responsibility; this also holds true outside the courtroom.

In people’s sense of justice, responsibility and justifications do have much weight (Burnstein & Worchel, 1969; Kolik & Brown, 1979; Shklar, 1990; Zillmann & Cantor, 1977; and others). In a vignette study, Schmitt, Hoser, and Schwenkmezger (1991) distinguished six grades of responsibility for an injury: (a) intended injury; (b) awareness and acceptance of possible injury; (c) careless action; (d) impulsive action, forced action, or unforeseeable effects; (e) benevolent action performed in a clumsy manner; and (f) behavior not under volitional control. They found a high correlation between these levels of responsibility and the mean state-anger scores of respondents taking the perspective of victims in the vignettes. The perceived blameworthiness of actors may be inferred from these state-anger scores. Montada and Kirchhoff (2000) have demonstrated that credible justifications substantially reduce victims’ anger at the offender, as well as the degree of punishment the victims regard as appropriate.

Retributive justice requires a valid assessment of the offender’s responsibility and blameworthiness. The offender’s own views of his or her blameworthiness must be given a careful hearing. Giving voice to the offender is a central principle of procedural justice; yet other’s views and information by others also need to be included in the decision-making process.

Blameworthiness, Apologies, and Retribution

According to the concept of retribution as atonement, a penalty is just when it is proportionate to the degree of guilt. The penalty is reduced, however, if sincere apologies by the offender are offered. Goffman (1971) named the following components for honest apologies in a private context: The perpetrator must (a) express remorse and emotional distress because he or she has violated a legal and moral norm and has harmed the victim; (b) he or she accepts responsibility for the violation and liability for blame; (c) he or she credibly expresses willingness to observe the moral rule in the future; and (d) acknowledges that it is up to the victim to accept or to refuse the apology, and that forgiveness is a grace granted by the victim which cannot be claimed by the perpetrator.

It has been empirically proven that sincere apologies reconcile victims and judges (as well as observers not directly involved) and reduce their desire for retribution and their punitiveness (Miller & Vidmar, 1981; Montada & Kirchhoff, 2000). Goffman (1971) explained this phenomenon as follows: By showing remorse, the perpetrator accepts the validity of the violated norm, accepts his or her own guilt and blameworthiness, brings him- or herself once again back to the normative consensus of the community, and confirms the views of the victim. Therefore, apologies attenuate the retributive counteraggression of victims as well as of the punitiveness of the broader public (Ohbuchi et al., 1989). The perpetrator’s attempt at reparation has similar effects (Darley & Shultz, 1990). Some courts also reduce the penalties if in perpetrator-victim compensation an agreement was reached (Rössner, 1998).

Victims’ Need for Retribution

Whereas the assessment of appropriate penalties has been widely studied, only a few studies exist of the victim’s needs for retribution. It is known, however, that for the victims of violent crimes, retributive reactions by the state are more important than are reparations (Baurmann & Schädler, 1991; Pfeiffer, 1993). The large majority of victims assess sentences as too mild in their own cases (Richter, 1997).

Astudy of victims of violent crimes (rape, physical injury, attempted murder, robbery, kidnapping) done by Orth (2000)—on the average 4 years after the crime and 2 years after the court trial—pointed out that two thirds of the sample were dissatisfied with the court’s judgment; and those who were dissatisfied tended to react with pronounced feelings of indignation, disappointment, helplessness, mistrust in the legal system, a diminished belief in a just world, reduced self-esteem, and reduced trust in the future. The effects of dissatisfaction, however, were moderated by victims’ appraisal of the proceedings as just. Procedural justice was assessed by some of Leventhal’s (1980) criteria and by the relational criteria proposed by Lind and Tyler (1988) that will be discussed in a following section.

The Justice of Social Systems and Politics

The justice of allocations and existing distributions in general can be assessed for different levels, for instance, within primary groups, within casual social formations as realized in most laboratory experiments, within organizations and institutions (Elster, 1992, speaks of local justice), at the level of the society (Brickman, Folger, Goode, & Schul, 1981, speak of macrojustice), and at the international level.

It is important to note that for assessing the justice of allocations and distributions, one needs to determine social borderlines that specify who is principally entitled to receive a share of the resources to distribute, who is obligated to bear a share of the tasks and loads to be allocated, and so on (Cohen, 1986). However, the determined borderlines may be criticized as unjust. Should the inheritance of a deceased person who has not made his or her will be distributed only among his or her descendants, or should those persons be included who have self-sacrificingly cared for him or her for years? Should the profits of a business be distributed exclusively to the shareholders or should the stakeholders participate? Who has to bear the losses? Should the tax revenues of rich states be distributed exclusively within the state or should developing states also participate?

Because the constitution, the legal system, and the institutions of a society have an impact on distributions, these components of the societal system are also the objects of justice appraisals—for example, the economic system, the labor laws, the health and welfare system, the educational system, environmental protection laws, immigration rules, the generation contract; all of these may be valued as basically just or may be criticized as unjust, as well as the politics responsible for their implementation and adaptation. Constitutions may be criticized for failing to guarantee human rights, the protection of the environment, or animal welfare; the economic and tax systems may be criticized for allowing the development of huge inequalities in wealth or for demotivating individual productivity; the educational system may be blamed for failing to provide equal opportunities for the socially disadvantaged or failing to meet the needs of gifted students. Justice arguments can be found to support or censure any given policy, and all parties concerned usually seem convinced that their view is the only valid one; this is how normative standards are conceived—as generally valid and as binding for all concerned.

Imbalances of Justice at the Societal Level

Not every claim, not every evaluation of social conditions, and not every protest against injustice is justified. Claims and protests are often based on a one-sided subjective concept of justice: Unbalanced claims—for the preservation of the status quo, of freedom rights, of the equality principle, of the need or the equity principle, and so on—lead to unjust solutions because all other principles of justice have been violated. This idea may be illustrated by a few case examples that are currently disputed.

Affirmative Action

Not seldom, efforts to correct one injustice result in the creation of another.Aprominent example is the affirmative action taken to correct the indisputable historical disadvantages of women in the labor market, problems that still persist to this day. For instance, women are still underrepresented in toplevel positions. Interpreting this fact as unjust discrimination against women, various types of affirmative action have been taken to give preference to female applicants over their male competitors. The justice problem with this policy is that I taims to correct a historical problem by reversing gender privileges in today’s generation of students and young professionals. Today’s young women have certainly suffered fewer injustices in education and in the labor market than have earlier generations of women, and today’s young men are less privileged than were their male predecessors. Therefore, it is problematic for these historical injustices to be corrected by affirmative action’s affecting only the present generation of young women and men, with no impact on preceding generations. The question is whether it is just that the costs of this measure have tobe borne exclusively by young men. Moreover, justice—at least in terms of equity—is more frequently valuated at the level of individuals, not at the level of groups or collectives.Therefore, as D. M. Taylor and Moghaddam (1994) argue, many people have justice problems with affirmative action policies.

This approach to correcting a historical injustice is based on an implicit assumption advanced by the new feminist movement—namely, that the gender categories male and female were in fact social groups. Would it not be a mistake to believe that the whole group of women will vicariously participate in and profit from the success of some—mostly already privileged—young women? Women are not a social group, but rather a social category. This distinction is psychologically an important one (cf. Griffith, Parker, & Törnblom, 1993). Individually, most women are members of gender-mixed social groups such as families, where they are bound not only to daughters, sisters, and mothers, but also to sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers. They may be proud of the careers of the male as well as of the female members of their family.

This is not to deny the continuing existence of unjust gender inequalities in the labor markets. Unjust gender inequalities are recognized by many of those who doubt that the concrete policy of affirmative action will result in new injustices. This is also true for affirmative action in the realm of ethnic inequalities in education and in the job market (cf., for instance, Bobocel, SonHing, Holmvoll, & Zanna, 2002).

Environmental Protection Policies

There is little doubt that current and future environmental pollution entails not only health risks, but also the risk of climate changes with incalculable consequences. There is also little doubt that the current pollution of air, soil, and water entails gross injustices. Because pollution is a side effect of productive processes in agriculture, industry, and business, and of traffic, air conditioning, and so on, the justice concern is about the allocation of the profits, costs, and risks resulting from these processes and activities. Some people and some populations benefit more than do others from these processes, and those who profit most are unlikely to be those who have most to lose from the risks and disadvantages of pollution (cf. the concept of environmental racism, Clayton, 1996).

The costs of pollution are still typically externalized—that is to say, the costs and risks are mainly borne not by those who have caused them, nor by those who have most to gain from the processes in question. The externalization of costs bears always the risk of an injustice. One of the policies for reducing pollution injustices is the internalization of the costs by means of pollution taxes. However, pollution taxes may result in new justice problems.

First, there is no guarantee that the taxes raised will be used to compensate the victims of pollution. In fact, not even all of the victims of pollution can be identified because its harmful effects are long lasting, interact with many other factors, and are cumulative. Furthermore, air and water pollution extend across regional and state boundaries, and such pollution may involve delayed risks for the future when coming generations may be affected by the greenhouse effect.

Second, pollution taxes may intensify social inequalities. They may be ruinous for poorer firms, but not for richer ones; they may be prohibitive for poorer car owners, but not for more affluent drivers who can easily afford to pay the new taxes. The result may be the bankruptcy of some firms, the consequent dismissal of employees, and the aggravation of social inequalities (Montada & Kals, 2000; Russell, 2000). Looking at the branched systemic effects of every intervention, it is not easy to avoid new injustices.

Justice for the Defendant Versus Justice for the Victim

The principle of giving defendants the benefit of the doubt is uncontested in criminal law, but the practice violates the victims’claims to retribution, at least in the case of those victims who have no doubts as to the guilt of the defendant. Many such victims experience an acquittal or a light sentence by the judges as a secondary victimization (Orth, 2000) after the state was not able to protect them from primary victimization by the crime.

Underserved Welfare Benefits

The fact that an ostensibly indolent unemployed father profits from the generous welfare benefits accorded to his family is unjust. It may be justified, however, by the constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity for all citizens: The children’s opportunities have to be safeguarded, and they are not responsible for their father’s unemployment. Furthermore, the economic system does not allow the father to be forcibly employed. The assessment of justice requires looking at the social system as a whole, and (frequently) considering which of several injustices is to be less tolerable.

State Subsidies to Business

Subsidizing uncompetitive business sectors aids those employed in these sectors and thus can be justified by the principle of need; but it may hinder modernization. Subsidies for preservation instead of investment in the future can place a mortgage on the future and a burden on the next generation. Every instance of subsidization by means of public funds that has no sustainable effect is an injustice to the needs of the next generation. The concerns of the next generation should carry the same weight as those of the present generation.

In political conflicts, the principle of preserving acquired rights is frequently asserted. In the spring of1997, coal miners in Germany took to the streets to force a continuation of the hitherto-granted government subsidies, which consisted of about LSD 55000-per job position per year. If an equal amount of subsidy had been demanded to create new jobs for all the four million unemployed persons searching for jobs (the unemployment rate was 10.4%), that would have required the entire federal budget. Applying the equality principle of justice in this conflict would have demonstrated the injustice of a onesided application of the principle of acquired rights preservation and would have undercut the miners’demands.

Pension Systems on a Transfer Basis

The current pension system in Germany raises at least two justice problems. First, with the current shift in the age pyramid, the younger generations can no longer be guaranteed that they will receive a pension of an equal ratio to their contributions as currently is paid to the pensioners; this is tantamount to an exploitation of the younger generation. Second, parents with children are exploited by the pension system insofar as their investments in time and money in the development and education of their children represent an essential contribution for the future performance capabilities of the pension system, but the parents do not receive equitable financial compensation for their investments. In addition, if they reduce their paid work to save time for caring for their children, as mothers frequently do, their own pensions will be lowered.

What Is Unjust and What Would Be Just?

It is much easier to reveal injustices than it is to establish justice within complex social systems. Pointing to imbalances is not yet a generally accepted solution. As justice conflicts and justice dilemmas become apparent, the question is how they may be resolved. There are several approaches to avoid or to settle justice conflicts and to resolve justice dilemmas:

  • Just procedures in decision making help to avoid creating feelings and perceptions of injustice.
  • When more than one principle of justice is valid in a case, a mixed application of principles would be helpful to avoid gross imbalances.
  • Mediation methods can settle justice conflicts in which (ideally) all concerned have a guided discourse about all issues and perspectives at stake and have a chance to find a mutually accepted solution.

These approaches are outlined next. It should become obvious that justice is a personal and social construction.

Avoiding and Settling Justice Conflicts

Procedural Justice

Given the broad spectrum of options for appraising, constructing, and realizing justice in the various fields of social life, conflicts about justice are unavoidable. How can these conflicts be settled? How can peace be preserved? One answer is to ensure fair decision-making—using procedures that are broadly accepted as just within the population (Luhmann, 1983).This solution holds for parliamentary procedures, elections, institutional decisions, decisions of courts, arbitration, and decisions of other authorities. The separation of powers is a crucial element in the appraisal of justice in a given society—this includes the right to appeal against decisions of authorities, also against institutional and parliamentary decisions in administrative and constitutional courts.

Extensive empirical research has confirmed the impact of fair procedures on conflict resolution and on the acceptance of authoritative decision-making. From a normative perspective, the question of which procedures are just is a crucial one. Although Thibaut and Walker’s (1975) book is entitled Procedural Justice, the authors address the issue of control more than they do that of justice. PBibliography: for procedures of conflict resolution that give more control over to the parties involved may well be motivated by self-interest—as Thibaut and Walker have argued—and not by a justice motive. Therefore, it is crucial to ask whether the parties involved claim to have control by voice only for themselves or equally for the other party. Leventhal (1980) has drawn up a set of justice rules for the procedures of decision making— for example, impartiality of the authorities, consistent use of arguments, consideration of relevant information, objectivity in the review of information, and revision of decisions if new information becomes available. The granting of a voice to all concerned is also essential—all concerned should be given the opportunity to present their views and claims and to take influence on the decision-making process by having their views and claims considered by the authorities. These are criteria that have emerged in Western cultures as procedural rights to be claimed by everyone. There is ample general evidence of what has been dubbed the fair procedure effect, which refers to the phenomenon that perceived procedural fairness helps the parties involved to accept even those decisions or outcomes that are less favorable than they had expected or hoped for (Greenberg & Folger, 1983).

However, a higher level of education is probably required for individuals to understand exactly what is actually meant by Leventhal’s list of criteria—and to determine whether authorities observe these rules or violate them. Intellectually less demanding criteria for procedural fairness would therefore be helpful. The concept of respectful and decent treatment by authorities is easy to grasp. In their group value theory of procedural justice, Lind andTyler (1988) emphasize the way people are treated by authorities. According to their theory, people care about their valuation and status in their group, community, company, or society, and they infer this status from the way they are treated by authorities. Because the way one is treated by authorities is informative with respect to one’s social status and has an impact on one’s self-esteem—as is assumed by political theorists such as Lane (1988) and Rawls (1971), as well as by psychologists (cf. Tyler, Degouey, & Smith, 1996; Van den Bos, Lind, Vermunt, & Wilke, 1997)— the concern for respectful and decent treatment in conflictresolution procedures would appear to be motivated by the striving to gain or to maintain high self-esteem and a positive self-concept. Lind and Tyler’s (1988) group value theory of procedural justice has inspired a wide range of research activities and has generated an impressive body of knowledge about the favorable impact that perceived respectful and decent treatment by authorities has on one’s own perceived status, on one’s self-esteem, on the acceptance of decisions, and on one’s trust in authorities’ fairness and the legitimacy of institutions (Tyler et al., 1997; Vermunt & Törnblom, 1996).

One question as to the justice component of group value theory remains open, however: Is everyone entitled to claim decent, respectful treatment by authorities? Even those who have seriously violated the law and social norms? Respectful treatment by benevolent authorities may enhance selfesteem, and it may produce further beneficial effects, including the willingness to accept the authorities’ decisions, but that alone does not imply that justice is involved. Only if authorities were obliged to treat everyone in a respectful or even friendly manner, everybody would be entitled to claim this kind of treatment, regardless of whether they deserve it. But is everyone truly entitled to receive respectful treatment? Or is this kind of treatment only deserved and claimable by certain people—for example, by law-abiding citizens, by people who have accumulated merits, by employees who always have given their best?

Brockner et al. (1998) and Heuer, Blumenthal, Douglas, and Weinblatt (1999) have made first steps to approach this question empirically. They could identify subjects’ self-esteem as a moderator variable: Specifically, having a voice and influential informational input into an ongoing dispute is correlated more closely with perceived procedural fairness among people with high self-esteem than it is among those with low self-esteem. Respondents with high self-esteem seem to assume that they deserve and are entitled to respectful treatment as well as to being given a voice. Consequently, they and only they tend to associate respectful treatment with fairness to resent unfairness if they do not get what they expect.

Nevertheless, positive effects that are analogous to the fair procedure effect may well be observable also in cases in which perpetrators are benevolently treated respectfully and decently by legal authorities: Such defendants may gain trust that the sentence is fair, may accept the authority of the judges instead of opposing them, may feel accepted as members of the community, and may reciprocally accept the rules of that community. Benevolence and grace may well have significant integrating power, even if they are not to be claimed.

Settling Justice Conflicts by Mediation

There is good reason to assume that at their core, all hot social conflicts are conflicts of justice (Montada, 2000). Insights into procedural justice—as well as insights into the prevalence of justice dilemmas and knowledge of how to deal with justice dilemmas—are helpful to settle social conflicts. We can differentiate several strategies for dealing with conflicts of justice in a mediation setting; they are outlined in the following discussion.

Articulating Conflicting Concepts of Justice

Existing justice conflicts are often not clearly articulated at the beginning of a mediation. The conflicts manifest themselves as emotions, specifically as resentment of the opposing party. It happens on occasion that the parties cannot clearly articulate their views of justice and require assistance with this articulation. To be able to assist, the mediators need an repertory of hypotheses concerning the principles of justice. Only clearly articulated concepts of justice can be communicated and reflected.

Mediators must keep in mind that the manifest objects of a conflict are not necessarily identical with the underlying deep structure of the conflict—an example can be found, for instance, in the many conflicts between parents and their adolescent children: the demands of the children for autonomy and the demands of the parents for maintaining authority and the acceptance of their norms and values by the children. The manifest conflicts about dress, hairstyle, neatness, contacts with peers, and so on do not directly reflect their deep structure. Thus, solutions to the manifest conflicts do not always lead to a lasting settlement because the deep structure of conflicting demands is not articulated and not addressed in the agreement.

Imparting Understanding for the Other Party’s Concepts of Justice

After the proper articulation of the conflicts, the second step in the process is imparting an understanding of the respective demands and normative concepts of the other party. Understanding does not mean that their demands and normative concepts were adopted and accepted as justified. Each party should, however, reformulate the other party’s views of justice and injustice in such a way that this party feels itself to be correctly understood; this is analogous to giving and having a voice in decision making, and it is a sign of reciprocal respect. If, in addition, each party can be induced to formulate arguments for the views of the respective opposing party, then a great deal has been achieved; this is in line with principles of discourse ethics and the ideal communication situation (Habermas, 1990).

Imparting Insight Into the Dilemma Structure of Conflicts of Justice

Settling conflicts is made easier when insight is gained that divergent principles of justice do exist and may be valid and that justice dilemmas result from this fact (Montada & Kals, 2001). The normative character of justice implies that everyone is convinced that his or her own conception of justice is valid for everyone else. Each party involved draws the unreflected conclusion that others are either in error in their differing viewpoints or are egoistic, perhaps even maliciously violating justice. If the person, however, recognizes that a justice dilemma exists, then he or she no longer views the position of the other parties as completely illegitimate and his or her own position as the only legitimate one. In conflict mediation, the questioning of the exclusive validity of every single principle of justice by pointing to the concurrent validity of competing principles is an important strategy (Montada & Kals, 2001).

The justification of the validity of a moral rule or principle is to be distinguished from the justification of decisions in concrete cases in which competing principles are relevant (Habermas, 1993). This step requires concrete attempts to qualify all conflicting claims for justice. Does this mean general relativism of values, a questioning of their validity? No! Not one of the aforementioned principles of justice is unfounded. Their validity can be established with good arguments. As this applies, however, to all conflicting principles, this implies that none of these principles is valid exclusively. We must counter a negative relativism that states Nothing is valid with the positive relativism No principle is valid absolutely; many principles are valid. Making one principle absolute and applying it to the exclusion of others would violate all other principles.

It is the wisdom of institutions to consider various principles of justice in their regulations and decisions. The social market economy, for instance, is an attempt to harmonize the rights of the individual citizen to free economic activity with the maxims of the social welfare state. Rawls’ maximinprinciple is also a suggestion toward integration of the freedom of all citizens to economic activity (which ensures best collective wealth) with the rights of every citizen to participate in the general prosperity (1971).

Regulations for decision making and individual decisions seem to find rather broad acceptance when several principles of justice are considered at the same time; this can be seen in the research on the distribution of scarce goods such as university study places, subsidized housing, and transplant organs, as well as in the research on the layoff of employees (Elster, 1992). If the decision procedures are, moreover, judged as being just, then their acceptance can be expected.

Qualifying Norms of Justice Empirically

If the parties are claiming different principles to apply in the pending conflict, it can be helpful to show that each party is applying completely different standards of justice in different situations and contexts; this shall demonstrate that the parties accept more then one standard as valid and the debate can be focused on the reasons that one principle is preferred in the specific case at conflict. A further possibility of qualifying principles empirically consists of pointing to the application of a multitude of principles and their intermixing in various areas of society. Here we can also point to empirical studies on institutional distribution procedures in the allocation or withdrawal of goods in short supply (Elster, 1992) as well as to Walzer’s (1983) observations that various norms of justice are used in different spheres of justice.

Communicating the Subjective Implementations of Justice Principles

If the conflict is not about which principle of justice is to be applied—that is, if the parties to the conflict apply the same principle but think they have contradicting justifiable claims—the justifications of these claims must be finely analyzed. As an example may few cases of divorce mediation in which at least one party claims a fair balancing of the former exchanges. That means that everything must be disclosed— all resources, all achievements, all sacrifices, all the love and loyalty invested in the marriage, all burdens borne, and also all returns. There can be no guarantee that a proper balance will be reached in a divorce settlement. But just communicating an understanding for the subjective assessments of the other party may be a step toward improving the relationship.

Adhering to Principles of Procedural Justice

Mediation requires that the rules of procedural justice will be observed—the impartiality of the mediators, extensive probing into personal perspectives and demands, careful consideration of information presented, a respectful and polite interaction, and so on. In mediation, the decision is made not by a third party (e.g., a judge), but rather by the parties themselves. For the mediation proceedings to be judged as fair, the mediators’ behavior is important. The mediation is conflict settlement worked out in common by the parties and the mediators; therefore, the fairness of the proceedings depends also on the parties’ behavior.

It is true that one cannot oblige parties to the conflict to be impartial—an essential principle of procedural justice. But one can oblige them not only to listen to the positions and arguments of the opposing party, but also to show with their own reformulation of those arguments that they have understood the other party’s position. When this action is coupled with a respectful and appreciative attitude, shown by Lind, Tyler, and others to be significant, a proper precondition is created to judge the mediation as fair proceedings. It is easier to come to an agreement under this precondition, and the lasting acceptance of this agreement is more probable.

Justice as a Personal and Social Construction

Although the justice motive is universal, divergent views about justice are indisputable. This becomes evident in historical changes, cultural differences, and the ubiquitous debates and conflicts in the private sphere—in the political arenas as well as in the courtrooms. The debates and conflicts have two different topics: (a) Which principle or rule of justice is the right one to be applied?, and (b) What is the right application of a principle? With respect to the distribution of a scarce good, it may (a) be debated whether the equality, the equity, the need, or some other principle is the right one to apply; and it may (b) be debated who at all is entitled to be considered for the distribution, who is more or less needy, who has contributed more, and so forth. The first topic is the choice of a principle (or a set of principles); the second topic is its implementation.

Justice Appraisals: Intuitions or Moral Reasoning?

In many situations we experience and perceive injustices spontaneously and emotionally (Lerner, 1998). Those who are outraged have no doubts that justice was violated; that means they have a sense of justice telling them what is just and unjust in the specific case at stake. This is not a deliberated, reflected, thoroughly proofed judgment, but rather is an intuitive appraisal. It may well be that the outrage will disappear when the case is reappraised, when new hypotheses about the facts are formed and tested (Bernhardt, 2000) or are offered by credible others, by the offender (Montada & Kirchhoff, 2000), or by observers (e.g., Zillmann & Cantor, 1977).

Referring to Shweder and Haidt (1993), who have distinguished between two categories of moral judgments, those based on cognitive intuitions and those based on reasoning, Lerner (1998) has distinguished between preconscious experiential processes and rational processes in coming to conclusions about justice and injustice. The moral emotions of resentment and guilt are mostly based on preconscious experiential processes. The belief in a just world (BJW) is a “fundamental delusion” (Lerner, 1980) that is preconscious in character and motivated by the desire for a trustworthy, reliable world. When adult people answer questionnaire items regarding whether the world is basically a just place where everybody gets what he or she deserves, most respondents hesitate to agree with such a statement. The rational system is activated, and too many instances of undeserved victimization and discrimination begin to surface. But even if this majority of respondents do not concede that the world is really a just place, there remain significant interindividual differences in their ratings to test hypotheses derived from BJW theory. In the large majority of questionnaire studies, the theoretically expected pattern of results was found to corroborate BJW theory (cf. Furnham, 1998; Maes, 1998; Montada, 1998b).

Like the frequently preconscious cognitions implied in emotions (e.g., Epstein, 1984), intuitions of justice and injustice are often preconscious—not reflected, well articulated, or well reasoned. Nevertheless, they are cognitions that can be modeled as personal or social constructions (Cohen, 1989) of an idea about what is or what would be just in a category of cases or in specific cases. The large variety of criteria or standards of justice defining entitlements and obligations has already been depicted here. Some process of selection must be assumed—whether it occurs spontaneously, habitually, or done after thoughtful personal deliberation, or done by formalized decision making as in court trials. Even if an individual person’s sense of justice was shaped by socializing agents and socializing experiences, the internalization of normative standards can be understood as a personal choice (Montada, 1993). Moreover, entitlements and obligations have to be attributed in concrete cases (e.g., on the basis of some principle of justice). The appraisal of an injustice implies that a subject’s entitlements have been neglected by some agent or agency who is considered responsible.

Looking at unreflected or reflected appraisals of justice and injustices as a process of selection and construction open the eyes for the spectrum of options given to evaluate a case. Psychological research has tried to identify factors that have impact on this process of construction. To illustrate, a couple of research lines shall be mentioned, beginning with dispositional factors that influence the fabrication of justice judgment, and ending with coping processes of victims who try to reduce their aversive feelings of being unjustly victimized.

Dispositional Factors in Appraisals of Justice

Various dispositions have been conceived and operationalized that have an impact on the appraisal of justice and injustice.A couple of them are mentioned in this section. There are individual preferences for specific principles of distributive justice that have characteristic consequences for the appraisal of the reality and for the motivation of activities. Those who prefer the need principle tend to resent, for instance, gross social inequalities more and are more ready to support socially disadvantaged people than are those who prefer the merit principle. In contrast, the latter tend more to blame the disadvantaged for lacking efforts to improve their life situation and for having self-inflicted their problems (e.g., Montada et al., 1988). Those preferring the merit principle tend, for instance, to oppose assertive action policies that use preferential treatment (at least, if the unfairness of the status quo is not made salient; cf. Bobocel et al., 2002).

As the justice motive may compete with self-interests, the centrality of justice in one’s life was measured and found to predict voluntary prosocial commitments (e.g., Moschner, 1998).

People vary in their sensitivity to befallen injustice; those who score high on this trait measure perceive themselves more frequently unfairly disadvantaged (Schmitt & Mohiyeddini, 1996).

Belief in a just world is challenged by observed injustices. Those scoring high on BJW scales tend more to blame socially disadvantaged people for having self-inflicted their situation problems. They do this because they want to protect their view of a just world in cases in which equalizing unjust social inequalities would be very costly or even impossible (Lerner 1977; Reichle, Schneider, & Montada, 1998).

As mentioned before, people with high self-esteem seem to feel more entitled to have a voice in decision procedures than do those with low self-esteem (Brockner et al., 1998; Heuer et al., 1999).

A case can be viewed from the victim’s perspective, the observer’s perspective and the offender’s perspective. Supposing self-serving biases, one might expect that the victim is attributing more responsibility and blameworthiness to the offender than the offender is ready to concede, while the observers’ appraisals may depend on their attitudes toward the victim, the offender, and the experienced threat of their BJW. However, the self-serving bias was not observed in harmonious intimate relationships: Questioning couples separately about injustices they have committed against the partner and about those they have suffered from the partner, Mikula (1998) found with harmonious couples that the appraisal of injustices suffered by the partner was more lenient than of those oneself had committed to the partner. In disharmonious partnerships, the self-serving bias was the rule.

The role of attitudes toward victims and toward offenders was intensively studied in research on juries. Prejudices against defendants have a significant impact on the attribution of blameworthiness and on sentencing.

The Social Construction of Justice by Social Movements

Social movements are stipulated by focusing a social injustice—for example, the withholding of civil rights from minorities, the discrimination against women in the labor market, the exploitation of natural resources by the living generation at the costs of future generations, the discrimination against homosexuality, the exploitation of children by child labor, the huge inequalities between the rich and the poor nations, the torture practiced in many countries, and so on.

Social movements try to appeal to and if necessary change the public sense of justice. Their views about injustices do not always reflect common sense and are not always shared by the majority. Even the disadvantaged (the victims themselves) might not share their views: The women in the workforce comparing themselves not with men but with other women (Crosby, 1982) did not feel disadvantaged. The children in child labor may consider their lot as normal, or they may even be proud to contribute a bit to the survival of their families. Homosexual persons in earlier times may have not protested against unjust discrimination but may have deplored their “deviant” desires.

The social movements must present convincing arguments that the status quo, the current social practice, is unjust. They must gain public attention in the media, but ultimately they havetoconvincethemajority—atleastthemajorityinthecenters of power. Major (1994) has outlined some of the psychological processes and strategies to change the public awareness of entitlements and obligations.

Coping With Injustice

Persons who are suffering an injustice have (in principle) several options to respond: They can claim correction of the existing injustice, they can claim an equitable compensation from the wrongdoers, respectively from those who are liable; they can start a lawsuit; they can retaliate the victimization; they can claim an apology from the wrongdoer; they can appeal for social support and some compensation from their group or community; they can try to forget the case; they can ruminate on the case, thus alimenting their resentment and bitterness; they can pray for a just punishment; they can excuse and forgive the wrongdoer; and finally, they can cope with their resentment.With regard to the construction of justice are those cases of interest in which an equitable compensation and a just retaliation are not possible and the resentment is not calmed down by a honest apology of the wrongdoer. How to cope with the continuing feelings of resentment and bitterness.According to an analysis of the cognitions implied in the emotion of resentment (Montada, 1994), the coping can take one of four strategies:

  • The suffered harm and losses can be reappraised: Are the harm and the losses really that severe? Is it, for instance, that violating to have been insulted by a person who has such a bad reputation? In cases of objectively severe and even irrevocable losses the victims may look for compensating positive experiences; this was called search for meaning in experienced losses. For instance, the victims may have found their true friends through this event, or they may be proud of the way they have mastered their fate. Gains are counterbalancing the losses.
  • Victims may think about their entitlements or the norms of justiceviolatedbytheoffenderandmayqualifythevalidity ofthesenorms.Thispointisaddressedinmoredetailinthis research paper’s section about mediation in justice conflicts.
  • Victims may think about the offenders’responsibility: Has the offender really acted malevolently, intentionally, recklessly, merely carelessly, or even with good intentions but clumsily? Was he or she responsible alone or were others responsible too? The victims can even attribute some responsibility to themselves in what has been called selfblame (Bulman & Wortman, 1977). The diffusion of responsibility (e.g., the poor education of the offender), especially the attribution of a bit of coresponsibility to oneself calms down resentment (Montada, 1992). Accident victims actively use reattributions of responsibility as a strategy to cope with their feelings of resentment and injustice (Montada, Schneider, & Seiler, 1999). Acomprehensive review of research about the effects of selfresponsibility is provided by Dalbert (2001).
  • Victims may think about possible justifications of the offender, misconceptions, conflicting obligations, own provoking behavior, and so on. Imagined justifications calm down resentment and hostility (Bernhardt, 2000; Montada & Kirchhoff, 2000).

These coping strategies, if effective, result in a changed view of the case and of its injustice.

Observers whose belief in a just world is shattered by being confronted with victims of injustice either commit themselves to restore justice if that would be feasible (e.g., Lerner & Simmons, 1966); claim justice from powerful others as the state (e.g. Schmitt, 1998); or they deny the injustices by derogating the victims (Lerner & Simmons, 1966), blaming the victims for having caused their own fate, or denying that harm and losses are serious (e.g., Montada, 1998a).

Conclusions and Outlook

We have good reasons to assume that the concern for justice is universal, and we have ample empirical evidence that a universal consensus on what is to be considered as just or unjust is the exception rather than the rule. We can observe diverging views between individuals, groups, and cultures, and we know of significant historical changes. This is not to say that no cases would exist in which views about justice are shared in a culture: Experimental social psychology has no problems finding and arranging cases that are considered unjust by nearly everybody. But the omnipresence of conflicts and debates about what is unjust and what would be just—in private lives, in public debates, and in the political arena on the local, national, and international levels—gives evidence of diverging views.

Two kinds of social conflicts and debates should be distinguished: (a) conflicts about the standards or principles of justice to be applied, and (b) conflicts about facts that are relevant when a specific standard of justice is applied. For instance, in conflicts about the layoff of employees, the choice and the weight of different standards or criteria of justice may be disputed (seniority, merit, current productivity, or neediness of the employees vs. equal chances of all or an equal cutback of wages and working time for all, an alternative to layoffs). Otherwise it may be disputed who has more or fewer merits, who is more or less productive, or needy, and so forth. The first kind of conflict is obviously a justice conflict, but the latter is also a justice conflict, insofar as criteria of procedural justice may subjectively seem violated when one’s own view of the facts is not shared by everybody—namely, the criteria of voice, impartiality, or objectivity.

It is an important task of empirical research to identify the standards of justice that are applied and to describe the cultural and individual pBibliography: that may be specific to contexts and cases. On the basis of such information, a reliable assessment of the conflicting views in actual disputes is possible; such an assessment is a precondition for a discourse and for conflict settlement. Until now, research has focused only a few standards of justice and has not paid attention to the whole spectrum of criteria.

An enlightened discourse has to take several perspectives at a problematic case or a justice conflict. Being aware of the prevalence of justice dilemmas—meaning that two or more valid principles of justice are conflicting—should help to avoid and to overcome one-sided views.

Looking at the character of justice appraisals, Lerner’s distinction between preconscious, intuitive, and experiential versus rational processes in coming to judgments about justiceandinjusticeisaveryimportantone(Lerner,1998).Many appraisals of injustice are intuitive and not consciously reflected upon. Furthermore, the parties of justice conflicts have primarily intuitive beliefs about justice and rarely have founded their positions on reflected moral reasoning. What is the problem with that? Experienced and observed injustices may motivate actions that have good and productive consequences: Protest may assert the validity of a justice norm, stop further violations, motivate compensation for the victims, and so forth. But it is also true that experienced and observed injustices may motivate terrible actions, up to homicide, war, and genocide. More over, they may mean a serious impairment of the well-being and mental health of individuals. Therefore, it might be well-advised to subject these intuitions of justice and injustice to reflected moral reasoning.

For this purpose, the typical use of the singular form when speaking of justice may be counterproductive because it may suggest that a single view of justice is valid: Which view should be valid other than the own intuitively compelling one? Whenever views of justice and injustice instigate emotions or motivate actions that have negative effects for the subjects, for others, or for the social systems, moral reasoning may help to demonstrate that no single view can claim absolute validity: Accepting one view, one principle absolute would violate all others. Trying to integrate and to balance various principles of justice in their decisions and regulations is the wisdom of institutions and authorities.

Moral reasoning and discourses about justice are one way that views about justice are built up or changed; these are not the only ways, however. The socialization and adoption of views of justice takes many more ways. Social facts as well as the dominant ideologies and traditions have a coining effect on people’s minds, at least as long as they are not criticized by trustworthy people as unjust.

A look at social movements and the psychological processes and strategies used to change the public awareness about entitlements and obligations is informative, as Major (1994) has shown. It is no less informative to examine psychological barriers against changes of the worldview—a consolidated belief in a just world, the conviction that the status quo is justified or deserved, self-serving biases, or prejudices.

At the individual level, the construction of justice can also be observed in victims of injustice, in observers, and in perpetrators. The coping strategies of victims who try to avoid or to reduce burning outrage and hatred against their victimizers or who search for answers to the question Why me? are well described. Observers who are not able or not willing to bear the costs of correcting undeserved victimizations of others reconstruct a case in order to preserve their belief in a just world (Lerner, 1980), which is to be considered a personal resource (Dalbert, 2001). And the perpetrators try to justify their deeds as Sykes and Matza (1957) and others have described; these are examples of the motivated malleability of justice views.

On the other side, we have many examples that justice views can impose themselves compellingly and uncontrollably to individuals, leading to intensive emotions of resentment of a perpetrator or of guilt when the victim him- or herself has failed. Such justice views function psychologically as categorical (unconditional) imperatives. This is not proof of their indisputable exclusive validity, but it is proof of the moral character of justice norms, and it supports the thesis that the justice motive is a primordial motive that is not instrumental and cannot be reduced to some other motive like self-interest.

In psychological research on this topic, it is crucial to make sure that concern for justice is the object of investigation and not some other concern. Entitlements and corresponding obligations shall be the focus and participants’ concern can be seen by looking at the emotional reactions to violations of justice norms like guilt and resentments.


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