IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

It’s not fair: Folk intuitions about disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversion


  • Alex Shaw
  • Shoham Choshen-Hillel


People often object to inequity; they react negatively to receiving less than others (disadvantageous inequity aversion), and more than others (advantageous inequity aversion). Here we study people’s folk intuitions about inequity aversion: what do people infer about others’ fairness concerns, when they observe their reactions to disadvantageous or advantageous inequity? We hypothesized that, people would not intuitively regard disadvantageous inequity aversion by itself as being rooted in fairness, but they would regard advantageous inequity aversion by itself as being rooted in fairness. In four studies, we used vignettes describing inequity aversion of a made up alien species to assess people’s folk intuitions about inequity aversion. The studies supported our main hypothesis that disadvantageous inequity aversion, without advantageous inequity aversion, does not fit people’s folk conception of fairness. Instead, participants reported it to be rooted in envy. According to these results, the claim that disadvantageous inequity aversion reveals a concern with fairness, does not readily accord with people’s intuitions. We connect these findings to other pieces of evidence in the literatures of behavioral economics, developmental psychology, and social psychology, indicating that lay people’s intuitions may be on the mark in this case. Specifically, unlike advantageous inequity aversion, disadvantageous inequity aversion need not be rooted in a sense of fairness. % revised abstract

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Shaw & Shoham Choshen-Hillel, 2017. "It’s not fair: Folk intuitions about disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversion," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 12(3), pages 208-223, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:12:y:2017:i:3:p:208-223

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
    2. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy & John A. List, 2012. "Equity Aversion: Social Norms and the Desire to Be Ahead," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 131-144, November.
    3. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    4. John Horton & David Rand & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "The online laboratory: conducting experiments in a real labor market," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(3), pages 399-425, September.
    5. Weg, Eythan & Zwick, Rami, 1994. "Toward the settlement of the fairness issues in ultimatum games : A bargaining approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 19-34, June.
    6. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    7. Shoham Choshen-Hillel & Ilan Yaniv, 2011. "Agency and the Construction of Social Preference: Between Inequality Aversion and Prosocial Behavior," Discussion Paper Series dp573, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
    8. Kogut, Tehila, 2012. "Knowing what I should, doing what I want: From selfishness to inequity aversion in young children’s sharing behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 226-236.
    9. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-660, June.
    10. Shoham Choshen-Hillel & Ilan Yaniv, 2012. "Social preferences shaped by conflicting motives: When enhancing social welfare creates unfavorable comparisons for the self," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(5), pages 618-627, September.
    11. Franzen, Axel & Pointner, Sonja, 2012. "Anonymity in the dictator game revisited," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 74-81.
    12. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2009. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1607-1636, September.
    13. Bolton Gary E. & Zwick Rami, 1995. "Anonymity versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-121, July.
    14. Shaun Nichols, 2010. "Emotions, norms, and the genealogy of fairness," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 9(3), pages 275-296, August.
    15. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:12:y:2017:i:3:p:208-223. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jonathan Baron). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.