Beyond Principles and Outcomes: Children Determine Fairness Based on Attention and Exactness

AbstractFairness depends on the principles that people use to justify their actions, and on the outcomes that they produce. Here we propose that, from early in childhood, we also judge fairness based on whether we believe the resulting outcomes were caused by the underlying principles. In Experiment 1 we show that four- five- and six-year-olds believe that an agent who paid attention when distributing resources is more fair than an agent who was distracted when distributing resources, even when they both produce identical outcomes. In Experiment 2 we show that children of the same ages believe that an agent who counts when distributing resources is more fair than an agent who does not count, even when both agents attend to how they distribute their resources and produce identical outcomes. Together, our findings suggest that children do not judge fairness based on the outcome alone, and they add to a growing body of work suggesting that, from early childhood, our intuitions about fairness are tightly linked with intuitions about exactness.

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