Social Justice Research

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 413–431 | Cite as

Social Justice in Love Relationships: Recent Developments

  • Elaine Hatfield
  • Richard L. Rapson
  • Katherine Aumer-Ryan


In all societies, people are concerned with justice. “What’s fair is fair!” “She deserves better.” “It’s just not right.” “He can’t get away with that!” “It’s illegal.” “It’s unethical!” “It’s immoral” are fairly common laments. In the 11th century, St. Anselm of Canterbury (Anselem of Canterbury: The major works, 1998) argued that the will possesses two competing inclinations: an affection for what is to a person’s own advantage and an affection for justice; the first inclination is stronger, but the second matters, too. Equity theory, too, posits that in personal relationships, two concerns stand out: firstly, how rewarding are people’s societal, family, and work relationships? Secondly, how fair and equitable are those relationships? According to equity theory, people feel most comfortable when they are getting exactly what they deserve from their relationships—no more and certainly no less. In this article, we will begin by describing the classic equity paradigm and the supporting research. We will then recount the great debate that arose in the wake of the assertion that even in close, loving, intimate relationships, fairness matters. We will end by describing what scientists have learned in the past 35 years about the competing claims of altruism, reward, and fairness in love relationships.


Equity Social justice Romantic affairs Passionate love and sexual desire 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Hatfield
    • 1
  • Richard L. Rapson
    • 2
  • Katherine Aumer-Ryan
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Department of HistoryUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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