chapter  12
24 Pages

Fairness and Preference for Underdogs and Top Dogs

WithScott T. Allison, Jeni L. Burnette

A prominent recurring theme in the work of David M. Messick is the idea that people are not indifferent to the outcomes that others receive. The title of the present chapter pays homage to one of Messick’s classic articles on this theme, a piece coauthored with Keith Sentis entitled “Fairness and Preference,” published in 1979 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Messick & Sentis, 1979). This article was but one of many in a large and influential program of research by Messick and his colleagues on social interdependence, and it provided convincing data showing that interdependent choices made on the basis of fairness can lead to different choices compared to those made without fairness considerations. Borrowing from this theme, we argue in the current chapter that fairness considerations also color our judgments of underdogs and top dogs, and that our preferences for these social entities can be swayed by simple manipulations of perceiver, target, and situational characteristics.