ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (7): 773-787.

• Reports of Empirical Studies •

### Effect of group membership on unfairness perception under co-experience conditions

LV Sasa1, SUN Xin1, SHEN Linlin1,2, WU Yuqing1, ZHAO Shu1, WANG Fei3(), WANG Zuojun1()

1. 1Department and Institute of Psychology, Ningbo University, Ningbo 315211, China
2Baoji Gaoxin No.5 Primary School, Baoji 721000, China
3Department of Advertising, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, China
• Received:2020-12-17 Published:2021-07-25 Online:2021-05-24
• Contact: WANG Fei,WANG Zuojun E-mail:feiwang@xmu.edu.cn;wangzuojun@nbu.edu.cn
• Supported by:
Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province(LY17C090001);Wang Kuancheng foundation of Ningbo University

Abstract:

A large body of research examined the effect of experiencing unfairness on an individual’s unfairness perception. However, the literature primarily focuses on experiencing unfairness at the individual level. A dearth of research investigating the effect of co- experiencing unfairness with others exists. The present study examined the effect of co-experiencing unfairness with another group member on unfairness perception. Three experiments were designed to test two competing hypotheses. The first hypothesis was derived from the “reference change” view, which posited that co-experiencing unfairness with other group members would decrease unfairness perception. The second hypothesis was derived from group membership research, which posited that co-experiencing unfairness with other group members would increase unfairness perception.
In Experiment 1, the participants were assigned to one of three conditions, that is, the experiencing unfairness alone condition (the “alone condition”), coexperiencing unfairness with another individual condition (the “individual coexperience condition”), and the coexperiencing unfairness with another group member condition (the “group coexperience condition”). In the alone condition, the participant acting as the responder was allocated a small amount of money (e.g., RMB 2 out of RMB 10) by the proposer in a two- person ultimatum game. The participant was instructed to decide whether to accept or reject the allocation for her/himself. One proposer and two responders were involved in the two coexperience conditions, in which the two responders were allocated a small amount of money (e.g., each responder received RMB 2 out of RMB 12) by the proposer in a three-person ultimatum game. In other words, the two responders coexperienced unfairness. In contrast to the individual coexperience condition, in which the participants were told to make a decision for themselves, the participants in the group coexperience condition were informed that the two responders formed a group and thus needed to make a decision (i.e., to accept or reject the allocation) for the group. Furthermore, payoff commonality was employed to enhance group membership. Specifically, the participants in the group coexperience condition were told that “if one of you rejects the allocation, then both of you and the proposer will obtain nothing in the trial”. The results of the experiment showed that coexperiencing unfairness with another group member decreased unfairness perception and the rejection rate for the unfair allocation compared with experiencing unfairness alone.
In Experiment 2, group membership was manipulated by asking the participants to make a decision for the group in turn. The results duplicated the findings on unfairness perception from Experiment 1. The results also showed that the group coexperience condition decreased the rejection rate for the unfair allocation compared with the alone condition, but the results did not reach statistical significance. In Experiment 3, two group coexperience conditions (i.e., a group of strangers and a group of friends) were examined. The results demonstrated that the participants in both group coexperience conditions reported a lower unfairness perception than those in the alone condition. Similar to Experiment 2, coexperiencing unfairness with either strangers or friends decreased the rejection rate for the unfair allocation, but the results did not reach statistical significance. These results have certain implications for reducing individuals’ unfairness perception in social contexts.