Social Comparison, Social Justice, and Relative Deprivation: Theoretical, Empirical, and Policy Perspectives

By John C. Masters; William P. Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Lost in Thought at the Choice Point: Cognition, Context, and Equity

William G. Graziano · University of Georgia


Introductory Comments

In this chapter, there are expositions of two fundamental but interrelated themes that are implied by other chapters in this volume and that have relevance for complex forms of social behavior beyond social comparison, social justice, and relative deprivation. One theme is the conceptual inadequacy of theories that focus on universals of individual cognitive functioning -- theories such as equity and cognitive development -- for the understanding of complex social behavior related to social justice. Graziano argues that such approaches incorrectly assume that social behavior can be understood without a grasp of social interaction, that social behavior is almost entirely determined by cognition, and that the particular context of social action is irrelevant. He buttresses his arguments with examples of the weakness of cross-contextual findings in research on cognitive development and equity and examples from his own research concerning the impact of social context on judgments of justice. He goes on to note the ways in which particular social situations and their hedonic relevance can alter a person's judgments of his or her own inputs relevant to social exchange. The second theme concerns the role of social context in social justice behavior. Graziano reviews a number of conceptualizations of context, from the macrolevel of historical context to that of the labeling of events. He draws on these efforts in proposing a framework for understanding context effects in equity and deservedness. This framework includes a set of four stages involved in social behavior, within which a person's definition of the social situation and what he or she believes is personally at stake in the situation plays a primary directive role. These stages

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