Social Justice Research

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 199–218 | Cite as

Interactional fairness judgments: The influence of causal accounts

  • Robert J. Bies
  • Debra L. Shapiro


There has been an increasing amount of research conducted on issues of procedural justice. Although this research has demonstrated that the type of procedure used to allocate outcomes has an independent influence on people's judgments of the fairness of a decision, there is growing empirical evidence that such judgments are influenced by the enactment of the procedure as well. Fairness concerns raised about the propriety of a decision maker's behavior during the enactment of procedures are representative of a desire forinteractional justice. In this paper, we present three studies that examine the effects of giving acausal account, or a justification, versus not providing a justification, on judgments of interactional fairness and endorsement of a decision maker's actions. In Study I, a laboratory study, ratings of interactional fairness and support for a manager were higher when subjects received a causal account that claimed mitigating circumstances for a manager's improper action than when they did not receive such a causal account. A second laboratory study replicated the same pattern of findings in two different organizational contexts. In addition, it was found that the perceived adequacy of the causal account was a critical factor explaining its effect. In Study 3, a field setting, ratings of both interactional fairness and procedural fairness were higher when a manager provided anadequate causal account to justify the allocation of an unfavorable outcome. The discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for research on interactional and procedural justice.

Key words

procedural justice organizational behavior social psychology accountability attribution 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Bies
    • 1
  • Debra L. Shapiro
    • 2
  1. 1.The Kellog Graduate School of ManagementNorthwestern UniversityEvanston
  2. 2.School of Business AdministrationUniversity of North CarolinaChapel Hill

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