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Abstract

From an early age, people care deeply about justice. However, reactions to injustice are altered by being involved in the situation, and people differ in their sensitivity to justice. Research suggests that dispositional self-focused and other-focused justice sensitivity reflect antisocial and prosocial tendencies. However, it is unclear (1) whether similar behavioral effects can be elicited by brief perspective-taking manipulations and (2) whether these justice orientations are supported by distinct neural systems. Across six studies, participants rated moral scenarios in either a second-person or third-person frame, then played a three-party ultimatum game and completed tasks probing antisocial and prosocial behavior. In Study 1, self-oriented justice sensitivity predicted greater acceptance of distributions after the second-person than third-person frame and, surprisingly, reduced antisocial behavior. Study 2 found no effects of perspective framing, but a negative relation between other-oriented justice sensitivity and acceptance of distributions that were unfair to a third-party. In Study 3, within-participant manipulation of perspective changed rejection rates for distributions which were fair to the self but unfair to another. Study 4 found that proportional equity was a better predictor of behavior than comparative equality. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Study 5 found that justice dispositions predicted activity within regions important for saliency processing and executive control. Moreover, these orientations were associated with activity in different networks, suggesting that they arise from distinct processes. Finally, Study 6 failed to find effects of justice sensitivity or perspective framing on electrophysiological measures of neural activity. Overall, these results suggest that perspective framing can influence behavior, though often interacts with justice dispositions. Moreover, justice orientations relate to largely separable neural systems and may prove important for future investigations of social functioning.

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