Constructing Social Preferences From Anticipated Judgments: When Impartial Inequity is Fair and Why?

Abstract

Successful and repeated cooperation requires fairly sharing the spoils of joint endeavors. In addition to preferences about the outcome itself, allocators are also sensitive to the attributions others might make about them as a result of their choice. We develop a novel mathematical model where decision makers turn their capacity to infer latent desires and beliefs from the behavior of others towards themselves, anticipating the judgments others will make about them. Using this model we can construct a preference to be seen as impartial and integrate it with preferences for equitable and efficient outcomes. We test this model in two studies where anticipated attribution of impartiality is ambiguous: when one agent is more deserving than the other and when unbiased procedures for distribution are made available. This model explains both participants' judgments about the partiality of others and their decisions.


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