What is Fair?

Socialisation and culture determine what we think is fair. In Western nations, a 50-50 split is idealised as fair, where the fairest outcome is one where I get the same amount as you. In other societies, however, fairness is acted out differently.

Anthropologist turned psychologist Joe Henrich studied how strangers divide $100 between them. In his experiments, one person makes a monetary offer and the other person can refuse it if they think the amount is too low. If they refuse, however, neither person gets any money. So most Americans tend to favour an even split; but if given a low offer, they are also more likely to reject the amount altogether to punish the other person.

Other societies find this whole notion odd. Remote groups in Peru and in other rural areas more readily take a small amount rather than punish someone else for being selfish.

I’ll return to this theme again later as it impacts social justice!