If I am treated fairly I tend to feel good. It’s a proportional situation rather than something so hard and fast as a particular amount. Given the situation in which I find myself, fairness is relevant to the total. Less in an environment of scarcity can feel as good as more does in a situation of plenty.
UCLA psychologists Golnaz Tabibnia, and colleagues Ajay Satpute and Matthew Lieberman find that separate brain regions become active depending upon whether one perceives that he or she is being treated fairly. Unfair treatment activates the anterior insula, a region associated with the processing of negative emotions. Treatment that is perceived as fair activates the ventral striatum, an area associated with reward.
Both areas are part of the quickly reacting emotional complexes within the brain and swiftly overrule the more deliberate, conscious utilitarianism that would evaluate the usefulness of the reward rather than its proportion of fairness. This tends to give us a default position in which our emotional fairness response is our first response – and our unthinking and reactive response until we have time to more cognitively assess the situation.
In other words, it is an underlying process which can demand reframing of mental models, acceptance, rationalization, or any of the other more rational mental activities that we engae in. But that being said, it is a core response, a part of TED that demands reconciliation if unfair. The suggestion is that we are indeed hardwired for fairness.
Links: Hardwired for Fairness