What We Mean When We Say "That's Not Fair"

The often-overlooked function of our justice system is its putative role. So how far are people willing to go to punish criminals? How many of your own resources would you sacrifice to punish a thief? 

What's the Latest Development?


What do we mean when we say something is unfair? And how far will we go to punish the wrongdoer? A pair of experimental psychologists sought to answer those questions by rigging a game in which a pair of individuals could steal money from each other. An important twist to the study was that retaliation (she stole from me so I'm going to steal back) cost the retaliator money in addition to what was lost to the thief. So the question became: Will the victim of a crime retaliate even though they will be financially worse off for doing so? 

What's the Big Idea?

What the researchers found is that the willingness of a person to sacrifice their resources in order that the thief be punished ultimately depended on the severity of the thief's crime. If the thief stole a small amount of money, such that the victim still had an equal amount of money or more money than the thief, only about 15% of victims were willing to sacrifice additional money in order to punish the thief. However, in cases where the thief stole a majority of the victim's money, making them better off than the victim, the propensity to retaliate rose to 40%. The study suggests we are especially offended by dishonest reversals of fortune. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Compelling speakers do these 4 things every single time

The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth

The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.

Keep reading Show less

This 5-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years before it emerges

The results come from a 15-year study that used ultrasound scans to track blood vessels in middle-aged adults starting in 2002.

Mikhail Kalinin via Wikipedia
Mind & Brain
  • The study measured the stiffness of blood vessels in middle-aged patients over time.
  • Stiff blood vessels can lead to the destruction of delicate blood vessels in the brain, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
  • The scans could someday become a widely used tool to identify people at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Keep reading Show less

How 'dark horses' flip the script of success and happiness

What defines a dark horse? The all-important decision to pursue fulfillment and excellence.

Big Think Books

When we first set the Dark Horse Project in motion, fulfillment was the last thing on our minds. We were hoping to uncover specific and possibly idiosyncratic study methods, learning techniques, and rehearsal regimes that dark horses used to attain excellence. Our training made us resistant to ambiguous variables that were difficult to quantify, and personal fulfillment seemed downright foggy. But our training also taught us never to ignore the evidence, no matter how much it violated our expectations.

Keep reading Show less