Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Fairness and emotion

Fairness and emotion:
What is the relation between fairness and emotion?


Have you ever feel[grammar?] angry about some unfair event or bargaining to reach an agreement for a fair offer? In this book chapter, we will discuss about how fairness and emotion have influence on each other. Fairness is to deal with matters reasonably and not to take sides, which is similar to justice, justice[say what?], and equality. Emotions are a reaction to reality when we are stimulated, triggering inner feelings, bodily reactions, thoughts and actions. By looking at different research on using the ultimatum game as major example investigating the relationship between fairness and emotion[grammar?].

Everyday life example

In a group assignment a groupmate not showing up when discussing report content and spliting work[grammar?]. On the day of the presentation, that groupmate suddenly appeared. Who contribute so little to a group project and got the same score as the team members[grammar?].

  • Do you feel unfair?
  • Do you feel angry toward this [grammar?] unfair?


Focus questions:

  • What is fairness?
  • What is emotion?
  • What is emotional responses to injustice?

What is fairness?Edit

Fairness is defined as treating people equally or in a way that is right or reasonable. It has two basic meanings. One refers to a state, character and condition of equality, the other refers to the quality or attitude of impartiality. Meaning that the handling of matters which is reasonable, showing no bias to one party or one person[grammar?]. Everyone bears the responsibilities individuals should bear and get the benefits they deserve. Also to treat everyone equally, not making biased judgments on others because of personal feelings, and give everyone an equal opportunity[grammar?]. People may feel unfair if someone takes on less responsibility or gains more than he deserves. However, it may differ depending on an individual's basic values and worldview. The concept of fairness and justice are often connected. Which justice is the standard of rightness based upon morals and ethics[grammar?]. The concept of justice seeks equality for all.

Equity theoryEdit

Equity theory by John Stacey Adams suggests that people's work motivation is not only related to how much an individual is actually paid, but also more closely related to whether people feel fair about the distribution of pay. People will always consciously or unconsciously compare their labor costs and the rewards they get with others, and make judgments about whether they are fair or not. Workers' sense of fairness depends on a social comparison. The remuneration workers receive (including money, welfare , recognition and reward, etc.) and effort in one's work (including one's education level, experience, time, energy and other consumption for work, etc.) are compared with others. People compare and care about what others have earned, make sure that it is fair, and take action to eliminate it if it is unfair. It seems that they feel that the year-end bonus is unfair[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Some people will negatively say that if you take less, you will do less work (to maintain fairness). Some people will try to communicate and let the boss know their contributions. These actions are all to eliminate the feeling of "unfairness". Therefore, believing that people's behavioral decisions are largely affected by behavioral intentions[grammar?].[factual?]

Fairness of justice
Different emotion express
  • What causes fairness judgments-- When judging whether a situation is fair, people use social comparisons to compare the distributive fairness of outcomes related to personal interests. As well as social influence on what is "right" and "fair".[grammar?][factual?]

What is emotion?Edit

Emotion is a complex response of consciousness, sensation, and behaviour that reflects the personal psychological states in significant matter or event. Emotions have important functions. There are many different types of emotions that affect our lives and interactions with others. Emotions are usually short-lived, and will disappear after the stimulus event ends. However, when events have a relatively large impact on us, such as the death of a loved one, lovelorn, serious illness, etc.[spell out], the emotions may last for a period of time and become a lasting mood and state. In social situations, people's decision-making behaviors are not only driven by material rewards and punishments, but also influenced by emotions, and may even affect subsequent decision-making behaviors.[factual?]

  • Primary emotion: Sadness, fear, shame, anger, disgust and joy
  • Secondary emotion: Guilt, shame, shame,disappointment and pride

Primary emotions are instinctive emotions that help humans adapt to the environment and improve their chances of survival. Other complex emotions, such as jealousy, tension, pride, embarrassment, guilt, etc., are derived from a mixture of the above basic emotions, and will only arise after learning and socialization.[factual?]

Anger is one of the most common and basic human emotions. Once provoked, people tend to lose their minds and act impulsive and aggressive. In a state of anger, people are more likely to underestimate risk and change their original risk appetite, leading them to make more risky decisions. In addition to anger, emotions such as guilt and sympathy also have a considerable impact on behavior. Anger is often considered a negative emotion, but it can sometimes be a good thing. It can help you identify needs, and it can also inspire you to take action and find solutions to the things that are bothering you. When a person's body or mind is hurt by injustice, anger tends to arise.[factual?]

How is fairness have impact on emotion?Edit

[Provide more detail]

Ultimatum gameEdit

The Ultimatum game is a game between two players in which one player (the proposer) proposes how to distribute a given amount of money (eg $20), and the other player (the responder) decides whether to agree to the distribution. If they agree, they will be allocated according to this scheme. If they refuse, they will get nothing. The role of responder in the experiment is usually played by the subjects. As long as the proposer allocates a small amount of benefit to the responder, the responder should agree because only in this way can the respondent's self-interest be maximized. Game theory predicts that any non-trivial offer will be accepted by responders, and that proposers will make very small offers. However, experimenters consistently find that offers of under approximately 20% are rejected about 50% of the time, and proposers tend to make offers of 40-45%. Responders seem to show a consistent willingness to forfeit potential gains to make spiteful.[factual?]

In one research [missing something?], researchers make some changes into the ultimatum game by adding emotion expression (EE) and no emotion expression (NEE) groups. The EE treatment is exactly the same as NEE except that the responder is given an opportunity, not a requirement, to write a message to the proposer at no pecuniary cost. Each message is delivered to the proposer at the same time as the responder's decision. The message does not include strategic implications. In both groups, about two-thirds of proposers offer at least 40% of the total amount to the responders and about one-third offer 20% or less. The EE proposer was aware that respondents could send messages with their approval or rejection decisions, but this did not change the proposer's decision regarding the baseline. About 87% of all respondents have sent a message to the proposer, most of whom express their emotions (Xiao & Houser, 2005).

Some examples of the messages are (Xiao & Houser, 2005):
Offer Message Emotion
Rejects 80/20 offer If you would have been less greedy than maybe we would have gotten some money. Treateveryone as you want them to treat you. Negative
Accept 80/20 offer I should have chosen to divide by $0 but I’ll take the $9 since I don’t like wasting my time. Enjoy Your $16. Negative
Accept 90/10 offer Well, we all want to make a little bit. I have the money here. Since you are my divider, I think it would be better for the both of us to go for rule D (50/50 offer). Either that or we won’t get nothing at all. . . Neutral

Of the 19 responders who received allocations of 20% or less, 15 (79%) wrote a message expressing a negative emotion, and none expressed a positive emotion. When offered at least half of the total amount, 29 of the 36 responders (81%) displayed positive emotions, and none expressed negative emotions. With responders’ messages, the message was classified as expressing a positive or negative emotion or was neutral (expressing neither a positive nor negative emotion). This study shows that negative emotions such as anger and disapproval can be triggered when people are treated unfairly. In addition to expressing negative feelings, it is important to highlight that 80% of the respondents in the experiment expressed positive feelings towards proposers when they received fair offers (Xiao & Houser, 2005).

Inequity aversionEdit

It is found that people have a strong negative emotional reaction to unfairness[factual?]. This kind of reaction is called inequity aversion. Knowing that choosing and accepting the offer will hurt them, they would rather choose to reject the unfairness which is their own share of money. The money is obviously less than the proposer's share but many times they want to "punish" the unfair proposer by rejecting the offer (Zheng et al., 2017).

Decision makingEdit

When people make a decision, immediate emotion is one of the factors that will affect people's possibility of accepting or rejecting unfair proposals. People will balance their own emotions with their sense of fairness. Therefore, before conducting the ultimatum game experiment, by inducing subjects to it can enhance the negative emotional experience caused by unfair proposals[Rewrite to improve clarity]. It can effectively reduce people's utility level, which can effectively increase the possibility of responders rejecting the proposal. By inducing the responders' pleasant emotions to reduce the unfair proposal triggering negative emotional experience[grammar?]. This can effectively increase the likelihood that the responder will accept the offer.[factual?]

Emotional responses to injusticeEdit

The research results show that for children, youth, and college students, unfair distribution results will bring a strong sense of disgust as well as angriness, and the negative emotions experienced by the responder themselves will be affected by different emotions induced before the experiment (Gummerum et al., 2019). In one research [grammar?] also suggest that treated fairly will experience positive emotions, whereas those under-rewarded are likely to feel anger and those over rewarded are likely to feel guilty[factual?]. If the reward received is lower than individual expected, the reciever[spelling?] may become angry and showing some form of aggressive behavior towards the cause of the injustice. A person who unexpectedly benefits from distribution may feel guilty and behave more generously. Guilt is especially likely to occur when the recipient feels his or her interests come at the expense of another actor. When people disagree about what is fair, they respond cognitively (e.g., thinking about how to reach agreement) and emotionally (e.g., angry at meeting resistance to one's preferences). The fairer individuals view their own outcome, the less likely they are to express general negative feelings and the more likely they are to express satisfaction and guilt (Hegtvedt & Killian, 1999).

Feeling of unfair[grammar?]Edit

Adults treated unfairly felt a range of emotions, including anger, sadness, or fear. Children who judged that victims were likely to feel sad, scared, or angry, and that unfairness would cause more sadness than other types of harm.[factual?]

From Evans et al (2001), researchers want [grammar?] to examine how children aged 9 to 11 made judgments about the level of injustice and what was fair. One of the most common experiences of injustice that children are likely to encounter is unjust punishment, being punished for something that they did not do or that was not their fault. Another familiar experience of injustice is when they do something good and go unrewarded. In this study, researchers gave participants aged 9 to 11 years four stories containing two unfair rewards and two unfair punishments. After each story, the child was asked a series of questions rating the unfairness. Resulting in that they feel worse to miss receiving an expected reward than to receive a punishment that was not deserved[grammar?]. Moreover, boys tended to be more sensitive to situations of unjust reward than to unjust punishment. Girls responded equally negatively to both. However, the boys in this study felt that missing out on rewards was not only abstractly unfair, but would make the characters in the story feel worse than the person being unfairly punished.

Case Study (Evans et al., 2001)

- Story I (unfair reward): One child finds a wallet and is about to turn it in but doesn’t have time and asks a friend to hand it in to their teacher. The teacher is pleased and rewards the friend with extra recess time for finding the wallet.

- Story 3 (unfair punishment): Two siblings are asked to put their toys away, so they divide up the task; one does his or her share but the other watches TV instead. When their dad comes home, he trips over a bike left out and hurts him- self. He yells at the child who had put the toys away and confiscates the bike.

After story [grammar?] researchers ask participants some questions, including:

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

[If yes] Tell me about it; [if no] Has anything unfair ever happened to you? Tell me about it.

Is what happened in the story fair or unfair? Why? How unfair is it?

What do you think (victim) would feel?

How strongly would he or she feel that?

What do you think (beneficiary) would feel? How strongly would he or she feel that?

What do you think could be done to make it more fair?

Resulting in Story 1, 100% and Story 2, 95% responded the character in the story is treated unfairly[grammar?]. All of the children who said the scenarios were unfair were then asked how unfair they thought the situations were. Boys tended to be more sensitive to situations of unjust reward than to unjust punishment. Girls responded equally negatively to both. Also only 7 children described the person avoiding a deserved punishment as feeling guilty; other children who thought this story character might feel negative simply described the emotion as bad or sad.


1 People feels guilt when they are over-reward [grammar?] because of unfairness:


2 Inequity aversion refers to maximizing personal gain by accepting unfair offer:



Fairness as a concept is closely related to justice but contains a more personal element, [grammar?] also refers to a system or situation that is justified, reasonable, and acceptable. It is like a reasonable game rule, and fair rules are conducive to the establishment of long-term stability. The concept of fairness varies from society because it depends on the view of rightness and equality. Emotion have an huge impact on our decision making process is also highly influenced by our sense of fairness. This book chapter concludes that fairness influenced our emotion especially anger and guilt[grammar?]. Those who are treated fairly will experience positive emotions, while those who are under-rewarded may feel angry, and those who are over-rewarded may feel guilty.

See alsoEdit


Gummerum, M., López‐Pérez, B., Van Dijk, E., & Van Dillen, L. F. (2019). When punishment is emotion‐driven: Children's, adolescents', and adults' costly punishment of unfair allocations. Social Development, 29(1), 126–142.

Hegtvedt, K. A., & Killian, C. (1999). Fairness and emotions: Reactions to the process and outcomes of negotiations. Social Forces, 78(1), 269.

Ian M. Evans , Karma T. Galyer & Kyle J. H. Smith (2001) Children's Perceptions of Unfair Reward and Punishment, The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 162:2, 212-227,

Knight, S. (2012). Fairness or anger in ultimatum game rejections? PsycEXTRA Dataset.

Pillutla, M. M., & Murnighan, J. K. (1996). Unfairness, anger, and spite: Emotional rejections of ultimatum offers. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 68(3), 208–224.

Reuben, E., & van Winden, F. (2010). Fairness perceptions and prosocial emotions in the power to take. Journal of Economic Psychology, 31(6), 908–922.

Reuben, E., & Van Winden, F. A. (2005). Negative reciprocity and the interaction of emotions and fairness norms. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Van Den Bos, K., & Lind, E. A. (2013). The social psychology of fairness and the regulation of personal uncertainty. Handbook of the Uncertain Self.

Van den Bos, K., Maas, M., Waldring, I.E. et al (2003). Toward Understanding the Psychology of Reactions to Perceived Fairness: The Role of Affect Intensity. Social Justice Research 16, 151–168 (2003).

Xiao, E., & Houser, D. (2005). Emotion expression in human punishment behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(20), 7398–7401.

Zheng, Y., Yang, Z., Jin, C., Qi, Y., & Liu, X. (2017). The influence of emotion on fairness-related decision making: A critical review of theories and evidence. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

External linksEdit