The Psychology of Fairness: Why Some Americans Don’t Believe the Election Results

David M. Mayer: Research consistently finds that when people get an unfavorable outcome but believe the process used to make the decision was fair, they react more positively. They may be disappointed, but they tend to accept the decision and stay loyal to the institution that made the decision. This is known as the “fair process effect”: the tendency for fair procedures to mitigate negative reactions to an unfavorable decision. However, research my colleagues and I conducted in 2009 identifies an important caveat to this effect. We found that when an unfavorable decision is very important to someone — that it is central to their identity as part of a group or their personal values — they tend to look for flaws demonstrating that the process used to make the decision was unfair.

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