Not all fairness is created equal: Fairness perceptions of group vs. individual decision makers

Maryam Kouchaki, Isaac H. Smith, Ekaterina Netchaeva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Drawing on fairness heuristic theory and literature on negative group schemas, we develop and empirically test the idea that, given the exact same decision outcome, people perceive groups to be less fair than individuals when they receive a decision outcome that is unfavorable, but not when they receive one that is favorable or neutral (Studies 1 and 2). To account for this difference in fairness perceptions following an unfavorable outcome, we show that the mere presence of a group as a decision-making body serves as a cue that increases the accessibility of negative group-related associations in a perceiver's mind (Study 3). Moreover, in a sample of recently laid-off workers-representing a broad range of organizations and demographic characteristics-we demonstrate that those who received a layoff decision made by a group of decision makers (versus an individual) are marginally more likely to perceive the decision as unfair and are marginally less likely to endorse the organization (Study 4). Taken together, the results of all four studies suggest that, in response to the same unfavorable decision outcome, a group of decision makers is often perceived to be less fair than an individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1301-1315
Number of pages15
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Fairness
  • Fairness heuristic theory
  • Group schema
  • Justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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