Fairness in bargaining

Madan M. Pillutla*, J. Keith Murnighan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This paper uses historical and contemporary philosophical discussions of fairness to present a structural approach to the definition of fairness. After establishing a set of standards (not a specific definition), we assess the impact of fairness in negotiations and bargaining. Our analysis concludes that truly fair behavior is absent in bargaining and negotiations. Instead, behaviors that have been called just can also be characterized as self-interested. Our review suggests that the term fairness has been used rather loosely, as a convenient label or as a more palatable alternative to self-interested explanations for an individual's choices. For reasons of both parsimony and accuracy, we recommend that the self-interest of the actors be carefully considered before calling their bargaining behavior fair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-262
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Justice Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003


  • Fairness
  • Self-interest
  • Ultimate negotiations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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