Students explore the principles that allow groups to work together and achieve common goals, applying them to the groups that they are a part of or care about.
“Fair” does not always mean the same thing
These lesson materials introduce students to issues of fairness and various interpretations of it. Based on some everyday scenarios, students reflect on what form of distribution they consider fair and recognize that there may be different interpretations of fairness for different people and situations.
This lesson also presents an experiment with children from three different cultures. In this experiment, it was examined to what extent conceptions of fairness can differ culturally. The role of learned social norms in the behavior of children becomes clear in these experiments. Social norms, in particular norms for the distribution of resources, reflect the specific challenges facing group life in a given society.
Based on insights from this lesson, students discuss how we can use our understandings to create a more fair world.
- Teaching material type Experiment, Full lesson plan
- Subject Areas Ethics, Philosophy, Social Studies, Social-Emotional Learning
- Learning Goals Conceptual Thinking, Cooperation Competency, Evaluation Competency, Intercultural Competence, Self-Regulation Competency
- Suitable Grade Levels 6-8, 9-12
- Concepts Culture, Development of behavior, Equality, Fairness, Moral cognition, Norm psychology, Social norms
- Content Anchors Child development, Cooperation Games, Cultural diversity, Our Mind
Author: Susan Hanisch
Related Lesson Materials
A set of behavioral experiments across cultures that explore the human sense of fairness.
A reading text about the challenges of life in groups and how groups across biology have found ways to solve these challenges.
Students identify the moral intuitions underlying people’s opinions in quoted texts and images.
- When people must share things, what does it mean to share fairly? Do all people around the world have the same idea of what is fair or unfair? Are humans born with a feeling about what is fair and unfair, or is it something we learn as we grow up? Scientists study how people from different cultures choose to share things in various situations, and whether people think different ways of sharing are fair or unfair. This article describes an experiment in which scientists studied whether children from different cultures have different ideas about what is fair. These studies are important for understanding how humans are similar and different from each other and from other animals, and they also help us understand how we can work to create a world that is considered fair by everyone.
- Distributing the spoils of a joint enterprise on the basis of work contribution or relative productivity seems natural to the modern Western mind. But such notions of merit-based distributive justice may be culturally constructed norms that vary with the social and economic structure of a group. In the present research, we showed that children from three different cultures have very different ideas about distributive justice. Whereas children from a modern Western society distributed the spoils of a joint enterprise precisely in proportion to productivity, children from a gerontocratic pastoralist society in Africa did not take merit into account at all. Children from a partially hunter-gatherer, egalitarian African culture distributed the spoils more equally than did the other two cultures, with merit playing only a limited role. This pattern of results suggests that some basic notions of distributive justice are not universal intuitions of the human species but rather culturally constructed behavioral norms.