Social Justice Research

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 343-366

First online:

The Social Context of Responses to Injustice: Considering the Indirect and Direct Effects of Group-Level Factors

  • Karen A. HegtvedtAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Emory University Email author 
  • , Jody Clay-WarnerAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Georgia
  • , Cathryn JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Emory University

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Whether individuals evaluate a distribution of outcomes to be unfair and how they respond to it depends upon the social context and their perceptions of why the objective injustice occurred. Here we examine a general feature of the situation that highlights what is often overlooked in distributive justice research: the impact of the group. We conceptualize such impact in terms of the group value model of procedural justice (Lind and Tyler, 1988) and in terms of collective sources of legitimacy (Walker and Zelditch, 1993). The former highlights how the extent to which one feels valued by the group may enhance perceptions of distributive justice (net of actual outcomes) and thus ameliorate the impetus to respond to objective injustice. The latter considers how the dynamics of group influence may reduce the propensity to respond behaviorally to perceived injustice. Our analysis shows how procedural justice and legitimacy (in the forms of authorization and endorsement) may affect attributions in a work setting, and, in turn, influence individuals' justice perceptions and reactions. By combining these elements, we chart for the first time the relative impact of two factors representing elements of the group on an individual's evaluation of and response to distributive injustice.

distributive justice procedural justice legitimacy