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The biological bases of unfairness: Neuroimaging evidence for the distinctiveness of procedural and distributive justice

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  • Dulebohn, James H.
  • Conlon, Donald E.
  • Sarinopoulos, Issidoros
  • Davison, Robert B.
  • McNamara, Gerry

Abstract

A classic debate in the organizational justice literature concerns the question of whether procedural justice and distributive justice are independent constructs. We investigate this question by using fMRI methods to examine brain activation patterns associated with procedural and distributive unfairness. We observed a clear dissociation of activation between these two forms of justice, and only a minimal amount of shared activation in the hypothesized regions. Specifically, unfair procedures evoked greater activation in parts of the brain related to social cognition, such as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) and the superior temporal sulcus (STS), whereas unfair outcomes evoked greater activation in more emotional areas of the brain, such as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), anterior insula (AI) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). We interpret the findings as supporting the notion that the two forms of justice reflect distinct constructs, while recognizing that, as forms of justice, they are closely related nomologically.

Suggested Citation

  • Dulebohn, James H. & Conlon, Donald E. & Sarinopoulos, Issidoros & Davison, Robert B. & McNamara, Gerry, 2009. "The biological bases of unfairness: Neuroimaging evidence for the distinctiveness of procedural and distributive justice," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 140-151, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:110:y:2009:i:2:p:140-151
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David Dickinson, 2000. "Ultimatum decision-making: A test of reciprocal kindness," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 151-177, March.
    2. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2003. "On the Nature of Fair Behavior," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(1), pages 20-26, January.
    3. Cohen-Charash, Yochi & Spector, Paul E., 2001. "The Role of Justice in Organizations: A Meta-Analysis," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 278-321, November.
    4. Colin F. Camerer & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Anomalies: Ultimatums, Dictators and Manners," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 209-219, Spring.
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