Why human beings tolerate mad, unearned inequality

This is an interesting study that applies cognitive science to political attitudes to the economy.

What’s special about it is that, unlike most social science, it includes a replicable experiment. She basically set up a game in which some people were winners and losers (the game was rigged without the knowledge of the players).

This has an obvious analogy to the difference between a regular person and a bank executive, with the latter benefiting from the game being rigged in his favour.

Players in the experiment were asked, after the game, to say what distribution of rewards was fairer. It turns out that the key variable was totally subjective. If the game they had been playing was rigged to produce more equal results, they preferred more equal rewards. If the game was rigged to produce lopsided results, they preferred unequal rewards.

Extrapolating from this, the experiment suggests that peoples’ perception of justice is heavily biased by the status quo:

If they happen to live in a monarchy, they’ll think monarchy is the best system. If they live in a capitalist Catholic theocracy (think Ireland in 1950) they’ll think that’s best.

papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? … id=2324255

Humans: not great at perceving objective reality.

Ah… so she’s the one running Ireland - I’m glad it was just a game - can I get my money back then please?