Chapter

19 Justice Theory and Research: A Social Functionalist Perspective

Personality and Social Psychology

II. SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

  1. Linda J. Skitka PhD1,
  2. Daniel C. Wisneski MA2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop205019

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Skitka, L. J. and Wisneski, D. C. 2012. Justice Theory and Research: A Social Functionalist Perspective. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 5:II:19.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Illinois, Chicago, Department of Psychology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  2. 2

    University of Illinois, Chicago, Department of Psychology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

Abstract

There are at least five functionalist metaphors that have guided justice theory and research in social psychology: people as lay or intuitive (a) economists, (b) politicians, (c) scientists, (d) prosecutors, and (e) theologians. These frameworks consider what people care about when thinking about fairness by suggesting that fairness serves different needs and goals. This chapter reviews each of these broad categories of justice research, and concludes by proposing a functional pluralism model of justice. The adaptive challenges people confront in their everyday lives require the ability to move fluidly between different goal states or motives. People have to resolve the problems of (a) competing for scarce resources, such as wages or jobs (the economist), (b) how to get along with others and secure their standing in important groups (the politician), (c) making useful inferences about others' goals, behavior, and trustworthiness (the scientist), (d) defending themselves and others from harm (the prosecutor), and (e) building a meaningful sense of existence (the theologian). The functional pluralism model's position is that people are economists, politicians, scientists, prosecutors, and theologians, and how they reason about fairness depends on their frame of reference and goal states at any given time. Which orientation guides people's thinking depends on the current goal orientation of the actor and the salience of various situational cues that could activate one or another of these mind-sets.

Keywords:

  • distributive justice;
  • procedural justice;
  • retributive justice;
  • fairness;
  • deonance;
  • morality