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Abstract

We argue that people's self-esteem is affected by the fairness of procedures to which they are subjected; unfair treatment will lower self-esteem. Moreover, since this influence on self-esteem is presumably due to the implicit evaluation expressed by the choice of procedure and hence by the evaluation expressed by the person implementing the procedure, people's concern with the fairness of treatment will be focused on the interactional aspects of the procedure. In two experiments designed to test these hypotheses subjects received either a high or a low grade on an ability test on the basis of either fair or unfair grading procedures. The results of Experiment 1 indicated that subjects' self-esteem was lower after unfair treatment, and this influence was only apparent when subjects received high test feedback. Additionally, ratings of the fairness of the interaction were lower following unfair grading procedures. Experiment 2 also manipulated level of involvement with the test. Self-esteem was affected by procedural fairness and procedural fairness influenced perceived fairness of the interaction only in the high involvement condition.