Georgia State research reveals people prefer fairness in group activities

Georgia State research reveals humans favor long-term cooperation of fairness in contrast to unfairness, according to a University release.

Researcher Sarah Bronsnan and her colleague, Frans de Waal at Yerkes National Primate Center and Psychology Department at Emory University, hypothesized that fairness has evolved, according to the release.

Their research began by evaluating nine species of primates and looked at their reactions after they preformed a task when a partner received praise for doing the same task.

“This sense of fairness is the basis of lots of things in human society, from wage discrimination to international politics,” Brosnan said in the release. “What we’re interested in is why humans aren’t happy with what we have, even if it’s good enough, if someone else has more. What we hypothesize is that this matters because evolution is relative.”

She also said the research began when she noticed how Capuchin monkeys seemed to prefer the foods their social-group mates possessed, even though they liked their food under other circumstances

“I began to explore whether their preferences were influenced by what others had,” she said. “The current paper sums up this decade of research and proposes a hypothesis for how it is relevant to understanding the evolution of the human sense of fairness.”

The results help people understand why humans evolved to care about fairness because individuals are cooperative, according to Brosnan.

“This explains how the human sense of fairness evolved, and shows that it is a part of our biological heritage,” she said. “Knowing this helps us to understand why we might expect humans to be more sensitive to unfairness in cooperative situations than in other situations.”

Brosnan also said people who are not fair in the long-term lead others to not want to work with them.

“…Which means that while there may be a benefit to cheating in the short term, over the long term, it means the risk of losing cooperative partners,” she said.