willingness to generate option arrays [Stage 4]). In passing, it can be noted that individual differences in affect are themselves subject to a justice/morality interpretation. Reconsider, for example, the words of John Locke that were quoted earlier in this chapter.
In this chapter, I argued that the largest single obstacle to our theoretical understanding of equity, social comparison, and judgments of justice was context. As the supposedly irrelevant background variables surrounding our phenomena change, so do the outcomes and even aspects of the process itself. The context dependency of social behavior is much discussed, but poorly understood. In the last section of this chapter, we considered five different but related ways of conceptualizing context. A common message was that it may be a strategic mistake to focus on the cognitive activity of a solitary individual, at rest and in social isolation. It is probably a mistake also to expect a great deal of cross-contextual stability in behaviors, even within presumably similar domains. To understand the seeming inconsistencies in behavior, it may be profitable for us to look at the ways persons interpret interpersonal tasks and negotiate harmonious relationships with the other people around them.
Let us end on a positive note and return to the story that began this chapter. There is something hopeful about being able to tell a humorous story about justice and equity. By reflecting abstractly on justice, by engaging in what cognitive-developmental theorists call metacognition (e.g., Flavell, 1985, pp. 105-107) about our relationships with other people, we may be better able to overcome the limitations and problems we have encountered in the past. This is no small achievement.
I am grateful to Michael R. Cunningham, Robert Folger, Stuart Katz, Leonard Martin, Lynn Musser, William Smith, and Michele Tomarelli for comments on an earlier version of this chapter. I am also grateful to Marcia Edwards for her help in compiling the manuscript.
Balsam P. D., & Tomie A. ( 1985). Context and learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Bernstein S., & Graziano W. G. ( 1981, April), Effects of inequitable treatment by an adult on perception of deservingness and peer reward allocation in black preschoolers