Who should pay for a water pipe: social context of distributive justice perception
Keywords:distributive justice, ordinary moral judgment, kinship effect, distribution of costs, public good, factorial survey
The article reports the results of the study of a peculiar type of everyday judgments about distributive justice. It examines the ways the social context affects normative judgments about the distribution of costs necessary for the public good maintenance from a third-party point of view. We used the factorial survey approach to estimate the effects of contextual information about the cost recipients’ kinship relations, the specific mode of providing information about their current financial standing, as well as the size of total costs on the perception of distributive justice. The participants generally tended to distribute costs compensating to those in the worst financial situation at the expense of those who were in a better financial situation if the recipients of costs were relatives, the information of cost recipients' financial standing described their incomes rather than debts, and the total costs were relatively low. Alongside with the statistically significant main effects, the pronounced first-order interaction effects between the total costs size and two other experimental factors were revealed: the increase in total costs diminished both the effects of kinship and of the information provision form (incomes vs. debts), thereby pushing participants to perceive an egalitarian division of costs as fair. The results support the general hypothesis about the contextual nature of distributive justice and promote our understanding of its manifestations in the form of ordinary normative judgments concerning the distribution of costs which are necessary for the public good maintenance.