Effect of an emotional situation on decision recipients' and decision makers' justice appraisals.
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Previous procedural and distributive justice theories have not accounted for the vivid and emotionally compelling situations in which people often make justice judgments. In this study I investigated whether previous theory generalized to emotionally engaging contexts, such as a forceful police arrest. Undergraduates (N = 258) read a vignette in which a student was suspected of possessing a smoke bomb and forcefully arrested. I used a 2 (Role: Suspect, Officer) x2 (Video: Present, Absent) x 2 (Voice: High, Low) x 3 (Guilt/Harm: Harmful, Harmless, Innocent) between-subjects factorial design to test three challenges to Lind and Tyler’s (1988) group value model. A path model analysis indicated that factors influencing justice judgments were affected by participants’ emotional engagement. When participants were emotionally engaged, deservingness effects were strengthened, and treatment effects were suppressed. These findings suggest that participants used different psychological mechanisms to determine what is fair depending on whether they were more or less emotionally engaged. Implications include the importance of engaging participants emotionally when conducting justice research.