Commitment to Justice in Conflict between Unequal Status Persons

Authors

  • Dean Tjosvold

    1. Pennsylvania State University
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    • 1

      The author thanks Ted L. Huston and Morris Okun for their helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of study.

    • 2

      Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Dean Tjosvold, Department of Educational Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. 16802.


Abstract

Possible determinants of a high-status person's conformity to the norm of justice and the consequences of this conformity on conflict resolution were explored. Ninety-six college students were induced to be high-status bargainers. Subjects believed that their partner was committed either to their group's self-interest or to justice in the conflict. Subjects negotiated with an opposing low-status bargainer who made a self-advancement appeal, an appeal based on an equity concept of justice, or an appeal based on a responsiveness to needs concept of justice. As predicted, subjects who believed that their partner was committed to justice as compared to the group's self-interest agreed more often to the low-status person's request for improved outcomes and indicated that they had a higher level of motivation to be just, more seriously considered the low-status person's position and situation, and were more willing to compromise. Contrary to expectations, subjects who were targets of the justice appeals did not agree significantly more often to the low-status person's request nor did targets of the self-advancement appeal. The data suggest that the norm of justice may elicit conformity when invoked by a group member, though it may induce little conformity when invoked by an opposing bargainer. Results were also interpreted as suggesting that seeking to do justice induces compromises toward the other bargainer's position by reducing egocentric biases.

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