Exploring the structure of positive and negative justice judgments

Clara Sabbagh, Manfred Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study challenges the commonly assumed symmetry between justice judgments that refer to the distribution of positive and negative outcomes. Based on equity and multiprinciple approaches, and particularly on the theory of framing choices, we propose a conceptual framework for analyzing the dynamics of relations between positive and negative justice judgments. According to this framework, negative judgments are more generalized (simple) and more emphatic than are positive judgments. Data analysis was based on responses of 240 German adults to 39 justice judgment items that were subjected to a Similarity Space Analysis (SSA). The analysis corroborated the hypothesis when the type of resource to be distributed was held constant. Thus, the findings may reflect the primacy and high emotional intensity of negative experiences. They also suggest that, without specification of the distributed resource, this facet of justice judgments (sign of outcome distribution) is devoid of content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-396
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Justice Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this paper was partially supported by the NCJW Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University, the Israel Foundations Trustees, and the Center for Human Rights in Israel. We are grateful to Yechezkel Dar for his helpful comments and to Helene Hogri for her valuable editorial assistance. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the VIth Biennial Meeting of the International Network for Social Justice Research, Potsdam, Germany, July 1997, and at the Sixth International Facet Theory Conference, Liverpool, United Kingdom, September 1997.


  • Framing
  • Justice
  • Outcome valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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