Justice judgments: Individual self-insight and between- and within-person consistency

Hayley German, Marion Fortin, Daniel Read

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use the method of policy capturing to address three open-ended questions regarding how people judge the fairness of events. First, do people differ in how they judge whether a situation is fair or unfair; second, are fairness judgments stable within-person; and, third, how much insight do people have into how they make fairness judgments? To investigate these questions, we used the method of policy capturing and a representative design that samples situations as well as participants. Forty-nine employees rated the global fairness of 56 performance appraisals sampled from their own organization (N = 2,744 situations), and regression methods were used to infer their judgment policy from their choices. We found that people differed greatly in how they judged fairness but used quite consistent policies across similar situations. Participants also provided self-reports of their judgment policies, and comparisons of these self-reports with actual policies revealed limited levels of self-insight.

This paper describes a well-executed study that fits the mission of our journal very well. In particular, the authors of this study sought to understand the important but poorly understood question of how people arrive at their judgments about whether a work situation is fair or not. The authors discovered that although there are important differences across employees in how they weight various potential antecedents of fairness, the policy capturing methodology reveals that employees tend to be fairly consistent in their own judgments across repeat situations of the same type. Interestingly, however, employees are not very good at being able to report the criteria that they are actually using to make these fairness decisions. These findings raise questions about the validity of self-report methodologies to assess justice judgments and pose some interesting challenges for justice researchers as well as for managers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)7-32
JournalAcademy of Management Discoveries
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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