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Title:Equity Judgment: A Revision of Aristotelian Views
Author(s):Mellers, Barbara Ann
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Educational Psychology
Abstract:Mathematical models of equity and inequity judgment were tested in four experiments. In the allocation tasks, judges distributed a sum of money among hypothetical faculty members varying in merit ratings, to determine their yearly salaries. In the inequity tasks, judges rated the unfairness to a hypothetical faculty member given the faculty member's merit and salary and those of another faculty member or set of faculty members.
Models dating back to Aristotle have been proposed to describe equity. These models predict that equity occurs when salaries (or outcomes) are proportional to merits (or inputs). Although the models define proportionality in different ways, they all make the same predictions for the allocation task. Data indicate that the proportionality assumption is not upheld over variations in the amount to distribute or the number of people involved. Rather, a person of low merit receives proportionately more when there is a small amount to distribute than when there is a larger amount. In addition, a person of low merit receives proportionately more of the total amount relative to another person when money is distributed among four persons than when there are two persons involved.
The "Aristotelian" models also predict that salary should be a linear function of either subjective or objective values of merit. Results show that salary is a systematically nonlinear function of merit, depending on the distribution of merit ratings within the group. Therefore, the data refute the general Aristotelian notion of equity, including the models of Adams (1965), Anderson (1976), and Walster, Berscheid, and Walster (1978), as well as the linear model of Harris (1976).
Equity judgments can be thought of as a kind of cross-modality comparison, a "match" occurring when a salary is judged as fair for a given merit rating. A theory of equity was developed to account for these findings based on a psychological relativity theory of cross-modality matching (Birnbaum, 1980; Mellers and Birnbaum, 1980). According to this theory, an equitable state occurs when the relative standing of a person's salary in the distribution of salaries equals to the relative standing of the person's merit rating in the distribution of merits. The cross-modality theory of inequity predicts that the judge compares the difference between the two relative standings and then evaluates the relative position of that subjective difference in the distribution of subjective differences. The relative position of a stimulus within its distribution is described as its range-frequency value based on Parducci's range-frequency theory, which predicts the judgment of a stimulus as a function of the subjective value and the stimulus distribution. These cross-modality theories gave a good account of both the ordinal and metric properties of multiple-person equity and inequity judgments.
Issue Date:1981
Description:137 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8114449
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-13
Date Deposited:1981

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