Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Equity theory (Adams, 1965; Walster, Berscheid, & Walster, 1976) proposes that people will perceive a distribution of resources as fair when each person in the relationship receives outcomes in proportion to his/her contributions. While equity appears to be a very important determinant of perceived fairness, inequitable distributions may also be judged fair (Deutsch, 1985). For this dissertation, it was hypothesized that many apparently inequitable distributions are seen as fair because the relationship is expected to be equitable eventually. In such a case, equity is still the underlying principle of distributive fairness, though, on the surface, people appear to be defining distributive fairness in terms other than equity.;In two experiments, undergraduates were presented with a situation, either hypothetical or actual, in which they and another person made unequal contributions to a task. Expectations for long-term equity were manipulated, after which participants rated the fairness of and/or their preferences for an equitable vs. an equal distribution of rewards. Participants also completed individual difference measures thought to relate to expectations for eventual equity (namely, beliefs in a just world, locus of control, and endorsement of the Protestant ethic).;In both studies, equity was seen as the fairest distribution principle, in general. In Study 1, equality was perceived as more fair when eventual equity was probable than when it was not, but only for strong believers in a just world and participants with an internal locus of control. In Study 2, there was little evidence that expectations for long-term equity influenced fairness ratings. Fairness ratings in both experiments appeared to be affected by motives in addition to fairness, such as politeness. The measures of distributive fairness in both studies yielded similar, but not identical, results to the preference measures.;These findings suggest that perceptions of distributions may be influenced by long-term expectations, at least in certain situations and for certain individuals. They also suggest that distributive justice researchers should be aware that perceived fairness and preferences may not be deemed equivalent. Finally, the findings appear to show that both distributive fairness and distributive preferences are influenced by a complex array of competing motivations.



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