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Two studies investigated whether lower socioeconomic status (SES) would be associated with greater tolerance for unfair treatments. Specifically, we hypothesized that individuals with lower SES would be less likely to perceive apparent injustice as unfair than those with higher SES, and furthermore, such differences in perception would lead to the corresponding differences in ensuing psychological responses. In support of the hypotheses, we found that (Study 1, N = 326; Study 2, N = 130), compared with higher SES participants, lower SES participants perceived one-sidedly disadvantageous distribution during the dictator game as less unfair. Moreover, a behavioral experiment in Study 2 showed that such tolerance for unfair treatments were associated with subsequent passive reactions in the ultimatum game. Taken together, the results imply a vicious cycle whereby the SES differences in a tendency to accept unfair treatments lead to psychological responses that may maintain or even strengthen the existing social disparities.


Youngju Kim, Jaewuk Jung, Jinkyung Na. Socioeconomic status differences in psychological responses to unfair treatments: Behavioral evidence of a vicious cycle. PloS one. 2022;17(6):e0268286

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PMID: 35687607

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