The effect of effort/ability based contributions and equal/equitable allocations on the perceived fairness of positive and negative outcomes

Sahin D.

TURK PSIKOLOJI DERGISI, vol.18, no.52, pp.17-31, 2003 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 18 Issue: 52
  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.17-31
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: No


Two studies explored whether the allocation of positive and negative outcomes had followed the same principles of justice. The role of effort/ ability based contributions and equal/equitable distributions on the conception of fairness within the context of positive and negative resources were also examined. Participants read a vignette about two target persons working on a joint project. These co-workers' inputs were manipulated in such a way that one of them contributed more with either a higher ability or more effort to the accomplishment of the project. Their outputs were also manipulated to have either an equal or a proportional share of positive (reward) or negative (cost) outcomes. The participants rated the degree of fairness of the distribution of outcomes. The results revealed that in the allocation of both the rewards and the costs, when the amount of effort rather than ability is taken into consideration, the proportional distribution is judged to be fairer. Thus the findings of the first study support the view that the allocation of positive and negative outcomes follow the same principles of justice. In the second study, the participants' conceptions of feelings as well as the outcome fairness from the points of view of the high-contributed and low-contributed target persons were also examined in the same vignette paradigm. Results showed that the participants rated the person who had put less effort but got equal share and also the person who had exerted more effort but got proportional share of the outcome as being happier. On the other hand; they expressed that the target person who had contributed more either by higher ability or effort but got equal share and contributed less by lower ability and received proportional share would be more angry. Hence, the results suggest that the feelings seem to be in accord with the judgment of outcome fairness and also effort rather than the ability seems to be more important in the conception of distributive justice which tend to be in line with the research results on attribution of responsibility.