WASHINGTON (AP) – According to a new study, fairness and privilege is not about how you play the game. It's about whether you win or lose.
A new experiment played as a deck of cards shows that most winners consider it fair, even though the deck is literally stacked in favor of people – and they know it. Losers have no idea, according to Wednesday's Science Advances study.
The study "says something about privileges and about society," said Emily Kane, a sociologist at Bates College who was not part of the research. "It reminds us how powerful perceptions are – it's not just what happens, but often what we think," she wrote in an email.
Research Shows How People Benefit in Life Kane may be too self-centered to explain how they have come in the past.
It all started when some Cornell University sociology students played a card game that rewards someone who has already won. Study leader Mario D. Molina noted that people who won ̵
Players were asked if the game was fair based on luck or based on skill. According to Molina, 60% of the winners considered the game fair, compared to 30% of the losers. And when it came to explaining who won, the winners attributed the talent three times more often than the losers.
When the game became even more unfair and a second round of card exchange took place for the benefit of the winners, far fewer winners thought the game was fair. Molina called this the "Warren Buffett Effect" after the billionaire called for higher taxes for the rich to improve competitive conditions.
Molina said this was just a game and found that players tend to be younger, whiter and younger than America as a whole – so using these results for a more comprehensive explanation of society may be too great a leap , Still, he said it was useful to think about economic privileges.
The main message of the study is pessimistic, said Eliot Smith, a professor of brain science at Indiana University who was not involved in the research: people have trouble making moral judgments about fairness when it benefits them.
Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears .
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This story has been corrected to show that Eliot Smith is a professor of brain science at Indiana University and not a sociologist at the University of Indiana.