Distributive and procedural justice: Acceptability as solutions to social dilemmas

Michael J. Platow, Lean O'BRIEN

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Community members are often faced with dilemmas in which pursuing their own personal self-interest can result in collective disaster. To avert disaster, people may turn to consensually held rules of fairness to solve their dilemmas. In this chapter, we review several common rules of fairness people may employ in distributing valued resources and in establishing the procedures for this distribution. We then review social-psychological research demonstrating how debate surrounds these fairness rules, and that consensus is often not held. We conclude by observing that calls for individual restraint made with reference to rules of fairness more often than not begs the question. Negotiation over what exactly fairness is still remains between individuals and groups holding different values, ideologies and power. Shared access to a common resource—such as fish in open waters, water itself, public parks, public roads, and energy for heating and cooking, just to name a few—is typically characterised by the structural property of social interdependence. Social interdependence refers to: (1) a relationship between two or more people, or groups of people, in which (2) the recourses that each party ultimately receives are jointly determined by the decisions and behaviours of themselves and the others in the relationship (Beggan, Platow, & McClintock, 1990; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Rusbult & van Lange, 1996). For example, consider the simple situation of picnicking at a public park. Each picnicker lays out his or her blanket on the lawn and sprawls out to relax. First thing in the morning, each picnicker can stake out some territory for a comfortable spread at a nice distance from others. However, as the day progresses, more and more picnickers arrive, claiming more and more of the increasingly disappearing lawn space. Now the picnic neighbours are no longer across the park, but right next door and, in fact, the polite ones give up some of their original space. In this situation, the resources of space and privacy are clearly jointly determined by the behaviours of each picnicker (e.g., when they arrive to claim their space) and the behaviours of others (e.g., the number of others arriving, the amount of space they take).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Social Justice
EditorsAugustus Kakanowski
Place of PublicationHauppauge, NY
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Incorporated
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781607417132
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


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