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What is equitable distribution? Jacobs University participates in DFG research project


February 6, 2018

“The cake is freshly baked, it smells tempting - and everyone has an appetite. Should each guest receive a piece of cake that is the same size, i.e. should the principle of equality be applied? When handing out the cake does hunger, i.e. need, play a role? Or do those who have baked the cake get the biggest piece, i.e. are the earnings received for the creation of the cake decisive for the distribution? “Needs-based fairness and distribution procedures” („Bedarfsgerechtigkeit und Verteilungsprozeduren“) is the subject of a research project with the participation of psychology professor Dr. Adele Diederich from Jacobs University. Of the total budget of 2.4 million euros, around 370,000 euros have been allocated to Jacobs University – a very high funding rate for a psychological research project.

The Universities of Hamburg, Bremen, Oldenburg and Vienna, the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg and the Chur University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland) are participating in the project besides Jacobs University. The scientists are less interested in the specific distribution of goods, funds and persons and what an individual regard as fair, but more interested in the underlying principles of perception, decision-making and the effect on society as a whole. They are investigating how need is identified, what distribution is regarded as sufficient and whether needs-based redistribution is sustainable.

“As psychologists, we are not interested in the distribution itself but in the emotions and feelings it generates,” says Prof. Diederich of her task. In order to find out what these are, a series of surveys are carried out with test subjects. It is important to ensure that the questions are worded as objectively as possible and that they are transparent as the greater the transparency of decision-making processes, the more likely the results will be accepted.

Economists, political scientists, philosophers, sociologists and psychologists are participating in the project. The researchers have been researching this topic for three years already. The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: DFG) has now approved the continuation of the project for another three years.

More information:

Questions will be answered by:
Prof. Dr. Adele Diederich | Professor of Psychology
a.diederich [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-3431