Distinguishing between deservingness and entitlement: earned outcomes versus lawful outcomes



Two studies are described that investigated a proposed distinction between deservingness and entitlement. Deservingness was assumed to relate to the evaluative structure of actions and their contingent outcomes and entitlement to an external framework involving rights, rules and social norms. Study 1 investigated reactions to scenarios in which a student running for election in a national student organization exerted either high or low effort, was either eligible or ineligible for election by virtue of age, and was either elected or not elected. Study 2 investigated reactions to a scenario in which a stimulus person suffering from an illness had to decide how much money to leave in a will to a son, nephew, or friend who provided him with either help or limited help. In both studies, student participants (n = 134 in Study 1, n = 236 in Study 2) completed ratings of deservingness and entitlement, as well as other measures. Results of both studies supported the distinction between deservingness and entitlement. Whether an outcome was deserved depended on amount of effort in Study 1 and on amount of help in Study 2. Results are also reported for other justice variables and for reported affect in Study 1, and for the amount allocated in the will in Study 2. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.