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The winners overlook the lack of fair play games, reveals the study

WASHINGTON (AP) – When it comes to fairness and privileges, a new study finds it really is not how it is played. It's about winning or losing it.

The new experiment, which is played as a card game, shows that even when the spit is literally complex in favor of people – and they know it – most winners still think it's all right. The losers are not, according to a study published Wednesday in Science Advances.

Study "tells us something about privileges and society," said sociologist Bates College Emily Kane, who was not part of the research. "It reminds us of how strong perceptions are – it's important not just what's going on, but more of what we think is happening," she wrote in an e-mail.

Research shows that people who have the benefits of life can give too much merit in explaining how they have come so far, Kane said.

It all started when some Cornell University sociologists played a card game that rewards someone who has already won. Principal author of the study by Mario D. Molina noted that the people who won – because they used the rules – thought that it was their skill, when that was not the case.

So Molin and colleagues created their own game that would take away the chance as much as possible and reward the winners by allowing them to drop their worst cards and take away the best tickets for the losers. Almost 1,000 players have shown how the game works and how the game is set up to help the winners.

Players are asked whether it is fair play, based on luck or skill. Molina said that 60% of the winners considered the game to be fair, compared to 30% of the losers. And when an explanation came out of who won, the winners attributed it to talent three times more often than the losers.

After the game became even more unfair, with another round of card exchange to make the winners more use, far fewer winners considered the game to be fair. Molina called it "the effect of Warren Buffett" after a billionaire who called for richer taxes to match the conditions of the game.

Molina said this was just a game and she pointed out that players tend to be younger, brighter and richer than America as a whole – so using these results to explain society in the broader sense could be too much a jump. Yet, he said it was useful when we were thinking of economic privileges.

The main message of the study was pessimistic, said Eliot Smith, a professor at the University of Indiana, who was not involved in research: People have problems with moral judgments about justice when they use it.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears .


Department of Health and Science Associated Press receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Natural History. AP is solely responsible for all content.


This story was corrected to show Eliot Smith was a professor at Indiana University and not a sociologist at the University of Indiana.

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