Inequity Aversion and Fairness in Development Open Access

Robbins, Erin Elizabeth (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8s45q900f?locale=en
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Abstract

Central to the issue of fairness is inequity aversion, a description of the malaise individuals experience when they have more (advantageous inequity) or less (disadvantageous inequity) than another. Aversion to inequity emerges between five to seven years, as evidenced by children's relatively egalitarian distribution of resources. However, contemporary accounts of inequity aversion tend to reduce inequity aversion to a general preference for fair outcomes, a tautological and intractable position.

From the perspective of development, it is unclear why such an inequity aversion unfolds, let alone manifests into the principled and ethical stance children adopt by five years of age. This dissertation addresses the circularity that has characterized many accounts of inequity aversion by proposing three proximate mechanisms (risk aversion, competition aversion, and loss aversion) that subtend the emergence of egalitarianism in three- to seven-year-old children.

Competition and risky gambles have the potential to create inequity if they result in a disparity of material wealth between individuals. In Study 1 children's propensity to eschew competition and minimize risk (both for themselves and a partner) predicted individual and developmental differences in egalitarian sharing.

Inequity aversion may also reflect a tension between the affective experiences associated with losing versus gaining resources. In Study 2, children estimated how much of a valuable resource they had won or lost. Although the objective magnitude of the losses and gains was equivalent, by seven years children displayed robust signs of loss aversion by overestimating personal losses and simultaneously underestimating personal gains, a trend that correlated with egalitarian sharing.

Finally, Study 3 examined how children rectify perceived inequity. By five years, but not prior, children selectively punish selfish sharing partners and compensate generous sharing partners, even when doing so comes at a personal cost.

In all, considerable asymmetries characterize inequity aversion: the relative influence of competition and risk, the subjective experience of losses and gains, and the relative importance placed on personal welfare versus that of a partner. It is arguably the resolution of these tensions that drives development, eventually forming the basis of the child's principled, ethical stance toward others that emerges by five years of age.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS PART I: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND CHAPTER 1 1.What is inequity aversion? Introduction and general overview 1 1.1 Fairness as a (moral) value: Historical context 5 1.1.1 Fairness as justice, impartiality, and equity 5 1.1.2 Social contract theories 7 1.2 Naturalization of the moral sense 8 1.2.1 Darwin, Dawkins, and the only animal that blushes 8 1.2.2 Evolutionary models: Varieties of cooperative behavior 10 1.3 Social preferences and inequity aversion 11 1.3.1 Parameterizing inequity aversion 14 1.3.2 Experimental paradigms from behavioral economics 15 1.3.3 Renewed interest in ontogenetic accounts 17 2. Developmental bases of the concept of fairness 18 2.1 A brief comment on terminology and theoretical perspective 19 2.1.1 The difference between conventionality, prosociality, and morality? 19 2.1.2 Conceptualizing inequity aversion as a developmental phenomenon 20 2.2 The what of sharing: Cognitive precursors in development 21 2.2.1 Children's understanding of quantity 21 2.2.2 Children's understanding of quality 22 2.2.3 Children's understanding of proportionality 23 2.2.4 Children can compute expected values and risk 25 2.3 The who of sharing: Development of perspective taking, social evaluation, and moral emotions 27 2.3.1 Social perspective taking and moral reasoning 27 2.3.2 Social evaluation and reputation 30 2.3.3 Moral emotions in development 33 2.4 The how of sharing: Co-developing experiences with exclusivity and possession 35 2.4.1 Origins of self-concept and possession in infancy 36 2.4.2 Children's understanding of ownership and exclusivity 37 3. Synthesis: How do children share? 38 3.1 Overview of the literature on inequity aversion in development 38 3.2 Methodological considerations 39 3.3 A review of strategic sharing games 41 3.3.1 Forced choice tasks 42 3.3.2 Ultimatum games 44 3.3.3 Dictator games 45 3.4 A review of distributive justice games 47 3.4.1 Universal trends toward egalitarianism 49 3.4.2 Social proximity, parochialism, and in-group bias 50 3.4.3 Proportional equity: Relative merit and effort 51 3.4.4 Proportional equity: Manipulations of relative need 53 3.5 Unresolved issues surrounding inequity aversion 55 4. Motivation for current investigation 56 4.1 Aim of the dissertation 56 4.2 Theoretical addressed 57 4.3 Prelude to general methodology 58 PART II: EMPIRICAL STUDIES CHAPTER 3 5. Risk and competition aversion as two potential proximate mechanisms of inequity aversion (Study 1) 61 5.1 Potential proximate mechanisms: Risk and competition aversion 63 5.1.1 Risk as a proximate mechanism 63 5.1.2 Competition as a proximate mechanism 68 5.2 Experimental approach and general working model 71 5.3 Methodology for Study 172 5.3.1 Participants72 5.3.2 General overview: Materials, setting, and design 73 5.3.3 Social Preferences Game 73 5.3.4 The Cup (Risk) Game 76 5.3.5 The Basket (Competition) Game 79 5.3.6 The Wheels of Fortune Game 80 5.3.7 Restorative Justice Vignette 83 5.4 Hypotheses for Study 184 5.4.1 Developmental predictions for the social preferences game 85 5.4.2Developmental predictions for the cup (risk) game 85 5.4.3 Developmental predictions for the basket (competition) game 86 5.4.4 Developmental predictions for the wheels of fortune game 87 5.4.5 Developmental predictions regarding the association between inequity aversion, risk aversion, and competition aversion 87 5.4.6 Hypotheses for the restorative justice vignette 88 5.5 Results of Study 1 90 5.5.1 Egalitarian choices in the social preferences game 91 5.5.2 Results of the cup (risk) game 94 5.5.3 Results of the basket (competition) game 95 5.5.4 Results of the wheels of fortune game 96 5.5.5 Test of the developmental hypotheses: Correlations between inequity aversion, risk aversion, and competition aversion 99 5.5.6 Predicting individual differences in egalitarianism 103 5.5.7 Summary of proximate mechanisms: Do risk and competition aversion predict inequity aversion? 113 5.5.8 Results of the restorative justice task 113 5.6 General discussion for Study 1 117 CHAPTER 3 6. Loss aversion and asymmetry in the experience of inequity aversion (Study 2) 120 6.1 What is loss aversion? 121 6.2 Developmental evidence for a general negativity bias 123 6.3 What is the link between loss aversion and inequity aversion? 125 6.4 Methodology for Study 2 127 6.4.1 General overview 127 6.4.2 Participants 129 6.4.3 Sharing pre-test 130 6.4.4 Training task 130 6.4.5 Establishment of estimation baseline (transparent control and opaque control conditions) 133 6.4.6 Magical sand game 135 6.5 Hypotheses for Study 2 137 6.6 Results of Study 2 140 6.6.1 Analysis of relative loss aversion (magical sand game) 140 6.6.2 Sharing pre-test and correlations with loss aversion (magical sand game) 145 6.7 General discussion for Study 2 149 CHAPTER 4 7. Beyond inequity aversion: Costly Sacrifice (Study 3) 153 7.1 Fairness as rooted in social evaluation and understanding of intentions 153 7.2 Costly sacrifice and strong reciprocity 155 7.3 General methodology for Conditions 1-4 159 7.3.1 Baseline assessment 159 7.3.2 Triadic sharing game 160 7.3.3 Selective costly punishment test 161 7.3.4 General overview of participants in Conditions 1-4 162 7.4 Condition 1: First person triadic sharing and costly sacrifice with stingy and generous puppets 163 7.4.1 Method for Condition 1 163 7.4.2 Hypotheses for Condition 1 164 7.4.3 Results of Condition 1 165 7.4.4 Summary of Condition 1 171 7.5 Condition 2: First person triadic sharing and costly sacrifice with identical generous puppets (Generous Control) 172 7.5.1 Method for Condition 2 172 7.5.2 Hypotheses for Condition 2 172 7.5.3 Results of Condition 2 173 7.5.4 Summary of Condition 2 177 7.6 Condition 3: First person triadic sharing and costly sacrifice with identical stingy puppets (Stingy Control) 177 7.6.1 Method for Condition 3 177 7.6.2 Hypotheses for Condition 3178 7.6.3 Results of Condition 3 178 7.6.4 Summary of Condition 3 179 7.7 Condition 4: First person triadic sharing and costly sacrifice with non-agentive puppets (Inequity Aversion Control) 180 7.7.1 Method for Condition 4 180 7.7.2 Hypotheses for Condition 4181 7.7.3 Results of Condition 4 182 7.7.4 Summary of Condition 4 183 7.8 Synopsis and Synthesis of Conditions 1-4 183 7.9 Condition 5: Third party costly sacrifice in 3-7-year-olds 186 7.9.1 The emergence of normativity 187 7.9.2 Two ways to restore justice: Punishment versus reward 188 7.9.3 Method for Condition 5 191 7.9.4 Results of Condition 5 196 7.9.5 Discussion of Condition 5 204 7.10 Summary and integration of first and third person costly punishment experiments (Conditions 1-5) 205 CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS 8. Integration, critique, and reflection of the thesis studies 208 8.1 Grand summary of results (Studies 1-3) 209 8.2 Critique of methods and future directions 211 8.3 What inequity is and is not 214 8.4 What is the developmental story? 216 8.5 Concluding Thoughts 221 9. References 223

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