Evolution of responses to (un)fairness

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, 1251776
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251776

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The evolutionary benefits of behaving fairly

Humans have a deep and innate sense of fairness. Humans, however, are not the only species to react to apparent inequities. Brosnan and de Waal propose that inequity aversion can be broken down into two levels. At the most basic level, individuals react to immediate unequal distribution of a reward for equal effort expended, whereas at the second, they show the ability to accept a current unequal distribution with the expectation that over time distribution will equalize. This second level facilitates cooperation over time and requires the cognitive abilities both to assess current distribution and envision future opportunities for equalization. As cognitive abilities advanced across the primate lineage, this more complex accounting of equal distribution and cooperation may have developed into the complete sense of fairness we see in humans today.

Science, this issue 10.1126/science.1251776