The choice between allocation priciples

International Journal of Psychology 44 (2):109-119 (2009)
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One hundred and ninety participants (95 undergraduates and 95 employees) responded to a factorial survey in which a number of case-based organizational allocation tasks were described. Participants were asked to imagine themselves as employees in fictitious organizations and chose among three allocations of employee development schemes invested by the manager in different work groups. The allocations regarded how such investments should be allocated between two parties. Participants chose twice, once picking the fairest and once the best allocation. One between-subjects factor varied whether the parties represented social (i.e., choosing among allocations between two different work groups) or temporal comparisons (i.e., choosing among allocations between the present and the following year). Another between-subjects factor varied whether participants’ in-group was represented by the parties or not. One allocation maximized the outcome to one party, another maximized the joint outcome received by both parties, and a third provided both parties with equal but lower outcomes. It was predicted that equality, although always deficient to both parties, would be the preferred allocation when parties represented social comparisons and when choices were based on fairness. When parties represented temporal comparisons, and when choices were based on preference, maximizing the joint outcome was hypothesized to be the preferred allocation. Results supported these hypotheses. Against what was predicted, whether the in-group was represented by the parties or not did not moderate the results, indicating that participants’ allocation preferences were not affected by self-interest. The main message is that people make sensible distinctions between what they prefer and what they regard as fair. The results were the same for participating students who imagined themselves as being employees and participants who were true employees, suggesting that no serious threats to external validity are committed when university students are used as participants.
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