ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (9): 1392-1399.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01392

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Both the Property of Resource and Medium of Exchange Matter: What’s Fair for Goods is Unfair for Money

ZHONG Luojin1; FAN Meng2; CHEN Lin3; WANG Jing1; MO Lei1; ANG Chen1; LIN Junxian1; PANG Huiran1   

  1. (1 Center for Studies of Psychological Application / School of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China) (2 School of Automation, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou 510006, China) (3 School of Chinese as A Second Language, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China)
  • Received:2013-06-13 Published:2014-09-25 Online:2014-09-25
  • Contact: MO Lei, E-mail:


One fundamental problem of organized groups is how to distribute resources fairly. Fairness and equitable distribution can increase working enthusiasm of the organization’s members and make them feel worthy to finish their jobs. Previous research found that people do not feel allocating money equally is as fair as distributing specific goods evenly. Previous studies hold the opinion that this kind of result can be attributed to the fact that money as a medium of exchange is compared with other specific goods rather than other essential properties of money. Based on previous studies, another hypothesis put forward that the relevance of the allocated resource and salary (the property of resource) is another reason for less sense of fairness to distribute resources equally. In order to test the possibility, three experiments were carried out. Experiment 1 tested the possibility that the allocated resource money is more likely to be regarded as a part of salary, compared with specific goods. Experiment 2 was designed to test whether exchange value resulted in less sense of fairness to distribute resources equally when the allocated resource is money rather than specific goods. Experiment 3 examined both factors (the property of resource and medium of exchange) which may influence the fairness of distributing resource equally. The results of experiment 1 indicated that people are more likely to treat extra money as a part of salary than extra specific goods. The results of experiment 2 replicated the results of previous studies, suggesting that the differences in the perceived fairness of allocating different resources lie in the medium of exchange of resources. The results of experiment 3 demonstrated that the property of the resource and the exchange value affect the allocated fairness respectively. These three experiments of the present study provide support for the hypothesis that not only the property but also the relevance of the allocated resource and salary have a major impact on this important psychological phenomenon, sense of fairness. These findings suggest that egalitarian outcomes have a greater likelihood of being accepted as unfair, when the resources being distributed represent wages rather than welfare. This new discovery has important guiding significance for the organization to better allocate resources in the future.

Key words: money, distribution of resource, fairness, property of resource, medium of exchange