Experimental Studies of the Effects of Different Systems of Distributive Justice
Morton Deutsch · Teachers College, Columbia University
In this chapter Deutsch presents an overview of some of the most significant findings of a program of research on outcome distribution systems in small work groups. Most of the previous research in this area has looked only at fairness ratings and reward allocation (or reallocation) decisions. The Deutsch program looks at the impact of distribution systems based on the justice principles of proportional equity, equality, and need, as well as a "winner-take-all" system, on productivity and attitudes toward coworkers and toward the distributional systems themselves. It also looks at the interplay between attitudes and productivity within groups over time. Deutsch notes that the principle of proportional equity, which has dominated social psychological thinking about social justice, seems most likely to have positive effects on productivity only in group settings that involve little interdependence among members. In settings that involve high interdependence, the competitiveness implicit in the proportional role seems likely to create more harm than good. Deutsch uses both kinds of settings in this research.
The program of research produced a welter of intriguing findings, among the most important of which is the fact that groups with low interdependence prefer proportional equity as a principle and believe it will encourage productivity. They are, in fact, no more productive with this principle than with others. Moreover, the proportional equity principle seems to discourage friendly relations among group members and lowers productivity in highly interdependent groups. Although