Those who enact legal procedures (authorities) and those targeted by procedures (subordinates) differ in their notions of justice. This study explored the conditions under which this disparity occurs. Participants read a vignette describing the interrogation of an airline passenger, in a 2 (Role: Authority, Subordinate) x 2 (Respect: High, Low) x 3 (Threat: Low, High, Moral) between-subjects experimental design. Results indicated differences between those randomly assigned to the authority and subordinate roles, driven by differences in the moral significance of a perceived threat. Authorities perceived a passenger with harmful intentions as more morally offensive, and were more punitive in response.
Paper presented at 'Bridging the Discipline', Annual Meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, Jacksonville, Florida, United States, 05-08 March 2008