Joël van der Weele (University of Amsterdam)
Title: “Fair Shares and Selective Attention” (with Dianna R Amasino and Davice Pace)
Abstract: Attitudes towards fairness and redistribution diﬀer along socio-economic lines, resulting in political conﬂict. To understand the formation of such views and ﬁnd levers to aﬀect them, we study the role of attention. In a large online experiment, we investigate how subjects allocate their visual attention to the contributions of merit and luck in the generation of a surplus and how they decide on its division. We ﬁnd that subjects who randomly obtained an advantaged position pay less attention to information about true merit and retain more of the surplus. Both the attentional and behavioral patterns persist, although with smaller eﬀect sizes, when dictators subsequently divide money between pairs of advantaged and disadvantaged subjects in the role of a benevolent judge. Moreover, attention has a substantial causal eﬀect: forcing subjects to look for one second more at merit information relative to overall outcomes reduces the eﬀect of having an advantaged position on allocations by about 25%. These ﬁndings open a new window on socio-economic cleavages in attitudes towards redistribution, and suggest that attention-based policy interventions may be eﬀective in reducing polarized views on inequality.