2021 Volume 37 Issue 1 Pages 26-35
Distributive justice is concerned with how societies should allocate resources. Although vigorously debated, the relationships between normative theories of distributive justice and actual behavior remain unclear. To examine the empirical bases of John Rawls’s moral argument, we tested whether distribution may be psychologically linked to risky personal decisions via voluntary focus on the worst-off position. Extending Kameda et al. (2016), we asked participants to make three types of decisions (social distribution as a third party, risky choices for self, and the Veil of Ignorance [VoI] task in which participants chose social distribution affecting selves without knowing their own positions) and measured physiological arousal during decision making. Participants’ distributive choices were correlated with risky personal decisions such that those who endorsed the Maximin (maximizing the minimum possible payoff) distribution preferred the Maximin gambles. Preferences in the VoI task statistically moderated this correlation. Pupil dilation associated with arousal was also related to these effects. These converging data suggest that social distribution and risky decisions are intertwined in the human mind, as envisioned by Rawls’s normative argument.