Distributive Justice in the Lab: Testing the Binding Role of Agreement

Marco Faillo 1 , Laura Marcon 1 , 2  and Pedro Francés-Gómez 3
  • 1 Department of Economics and Management, University of Trento,, Trento, Italy
  • 2 Department of Philosophy I, Campus de la Cartuja,, Granada, Spain
  • 3 Department of Philosophy I, Campus de la Cartuja,, Granada, Spain


Lorenzo Sacconi and his coauthors have put forward the hypothesis that impartial agreements on distributive rules may generate a conditional preference for conformity. The observable effect of this preference would be compliance with fair distributive rules chosen behind a veil of ignorance, even in the absence of external coercion. This paper uses a Dictator Game with production and taking option to compare two ways in which the device of the veil of ignorance may be thought to generate a motivation for, and compliance with a fair distributive rule: individually-as a thought experiment that should work as a moral cue- and collectively-as an actual process of agreement among subjects. The main result is that actual agreement proves to be necessary for agents to be led towards a fair distributive principle and to generate a significant amount of compliance in absence of external authority. This conclusion vindicates the role of actual agreements in generating motivational power in correspondence with fair distributive rules.

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The Journal is devoted to the fundamental issues of empirical and normative social theory, and is directed at social scientists and social philosophers who combine commitment to political and moral enlightenment with argumentative rigour and conceptual clarity. Published articles develop social theorizing in connection with analytical philosophy and philosophy of science.