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Generalized Negative Reciprocity – How to Interrupt the Chain of Unfairness (joint with Xenia Grote, Katarina Kuss, Soyoung Q Park and Bernd Weber)

 On 29th May 2017 (1-2pm) Dr. Sabrina Strang, research assistant at the University of Lübeck, will give a presentation about “Generalized Negative Reciprocity – How to Interrupt the Chain of Unfairness" in Q4.245. Afterwards, Mrs. Strang will be available for questions and discussions. Her presentation is part of


Humans are tremendously sensitive to unfairness. Unfairness provokes strong negative emotional reactions and influences our subsequent decision making. These decisions might not only have consequences for ourselves and the person who treated us unfairly but can even transmit to innocent third persons – a phenomenon that has been referred to as generalized negative reciprocity.

In this study we aimed to investigate whether regulation of emotions can interrupt this chain of unfairness. Real allocations in a dictator game were used to create unfair situations. Three different regulation strategies, namely writing a message to the dictator who made an unfair offer, either forwarded or not forwarded, describing a neutral picture and a control condition in which subjects just had to wait for three minutes, were then tested on their ability to influence the elicited emotions. Subsequently participants were asked to allocate money between themselves and a third person.
We show that writing a message which is forwarded to the unfair actor is an effective emotion regulation strategy and that those participants who regulated their emotions successfully by writing a message made higher allocations to a third person. Thus, using message writing as an emotion regulation strategy can interrupt the chain of unfairness.

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