Reformulating the Preconditions of Resentment: A Referent Cognitions Model
Robert Folger · Southern Methodist University
All the major conceptual topics of this volume -- justice, social comparison, and relative deprivation -- are woven together in this treatment of the psychological conditions and processes associated with resentment over one's reward-cost outcomes. Using the earlier formulation of Crosby and Cook as a basic framework, Folger calls on analyses of judgmental heuristics, the simulation heuristic specifically, to construct a broad conceptual structure for the understanding of relative deprivation. This approach, termed referent cognitions theory (RCT), assumes that resentment over one's treatment depends on the "story" one can tell him/herself, not only about what outcomes might have been (referent outcomes), but also about what other routes might have been taken to achieve the relevant outcomes (referent instrumentalities), and what possible futures lie in store (amelioration). Folger notes the equivalent status of self and other as an object of comparison (as do Masters and Keil in their volume) and adds a neglected but clearly important source of comparison information that he calls "theoretical", and which includes ideology (e.g., utopian dreams). With the concept of referent instrumentalities, Folger brings the topic of procedural justice to bear on issues typically treated in terms of distributive justice alone. Finally, with the concept of amelioration, relative deprivation is placed in the context of ongoing social relationships, escaping the typical restriction of social justice considerations to one-shot encounters.