Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

David Melamed


The objective of this dissertation is to introduce a theory of the stability of rewards, justice evaluations and group cooperation with the results from three empirical tests of the theory. According to justice theory, rewards from exchange relations produce justice evaluations among individuals, leading to emotional and behavioral reactions. Specifically, unjust rewards cause lower levels of justice evaluations, positive emotions, and cooperative behaviors. Prospect theory and research on negativity bias posit the asymmetry between negative and positive events: negative events have a stronger effect than the same size of positive events on individuals’ perception. Combining the previous arguments, the theory introduced in this dissertation maintains that in repeated rewards events, the instability of rewards itself has a negative effect. That is, unstable rewards lower justice evaluations, positive emotions, and willingness to cooperate. The theory is tested with three mixed quantitative methodologies. Results from analyses of nationally representative sample survey data show that the stability of rules in workplaces has a positive effect on justice evaluations, willingness to work hard and willingness to stay in current workplaces among employees. Next, a controlled laboratory experiment tests the theory more rigorously. The results reveal the positive effect of the stability of rewards on justice evaluations, positive emotions, and cooperative behaviors. The second experiment replicates the results from the first experiment and confirms the effectiveness of the theory. The experiment also tests the effect of the presenting order of instability of rewards and shows that reward instability occurring earlier has a stronger effect than that which occurs later. The implications of findings on sociological theory and other various areas are discussed.

Included in

Sociology Commons