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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Aug 1;114(31):8420-8425. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1703801114. Epub 2017 Jul 17.

Support for redistribution is shaped by compassion, envy, and self-interest, but not a taste for fairness.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, H3C 3J7, Canada; dsznycer2@gmail.com.
2
Center for Evolutionary Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660.
3
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660.
4
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104.
5
Facultad de Psicología, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, 5000, Argentina.
6
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD 4122, Australia.
7
School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Herzliya 46150, Israel.
8
Department of Psychology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 9190501, Israel.
9
Center for Experimental Economics and Political Decision Making, University of Amsterdam, 1018WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
10
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3210.

Abstract

Why do people support economic redistribution? Hypotheses include inequity aversion, a moral sense that inequality is intrinsically unfair, and cultural explanations such as exposure to and assimilation of culturally transmitted ideologies. However, humans have been interacting with worse-off and better-off individuals over evolutionary time, and our motivational systems may have been naturally selected to navigate the opportunities and challenges posed by such recurrent interactions. We hypothesize that modern redistribution is perceived as an ancestral scene involving three notional players: the needy other, the better-off other, and the actor herself. We explore how three motivational systems-compassion, self-interest, and envy-guide responses to the needy other and the better-off other, and how they pattern responses to redistribution. Data from the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and Israel support this model. Endorsement of redistribution is independently predicted by dispositional compassion, dispositional envy, and the expectation of personal gain from redistribution. By contrast, a taste for fairness, in the sense of (i) universality in the application of laws and standards, or (ii) low variance in group-level payoffs, fails to predict attitudes about redistribution.

KEYWORDS:

emotion; fairness; inequality; morality; redistribution

PMID:
28716928
PMCID:
PMC5547621
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1703801114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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