People’s preferences for income distribution fundamentally affect their behavior and contribute to shaping important social and political institutions. The study of such preferences has become a major topic in behavioral research in social psychology and economics. Despite the large literature studying preferences for income distribution, there is no direct neuronal evidence of how the brain responds to income distributions when people have made different contributions in terms of work effort. The present paper reports from, to our knowledge, the first neuroimaging study designed to examine how the brain responds to the distribution of income in such situations. As such, to our knowledge it is also the first study to examine the neuronal basis for equity theory. The present paper reports results from, to our knowledge, the first study designed to examine the neuronal responses to income inequality in situations in which individuals have made different contributions in terms of work effort. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first set of neuronal evidence for equity theory and suggest that people distinguish between fair and unfair inequalities.
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