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  • Print publication year: 1993
  • Online publication date: October 2009

Equality as a decision heuristic

Summary

Introduction

In this chapter I propose to examine the concept of equality or equal division as a heuristic that is used to facilitate decision making in situations involving the allocation of goods and bads. The kinds of situations that I have in mind involve two or more people who must share resources, responsibilities, or liabilities. This is the same class of situations about which much has been written from the point of view of ethical theories of distributive justice (e.g., Nozick, 1947; Rawls, 1971) and from the psychological perspective of equity theory (Adams, 1965; Messick & Cook, 1983; Walster, Berscheid, & Walster, 1973). This chapter does not deal with ethical issues per se and it pertains to equity theory and related concepts only insofar as equity theory is viewed as the outcome or product of a certain type of social decision making. The focus of the chapter is the individual cognitive processes involved when a person must make a decision about how some resource or cost should be allocated. I propose that the idea of equality has properties that make it a useful guideline or benchmark in making allocation decisions. It will become obvious that the use of equality as a decision heuristic does not imply that such decisions are simpleminded or uninteresting. On the contrary, they can be quite intricate.

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Psychological Perspectives on Justice
  • Online ISBN: 9780511552069
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511552069
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