• Final Mile

Be Fair more than Being Correct

Human beings are driven by the sense of fairness, way more than correctness and sometimes even at the cost of correctness.

Lets look at this classical case of  the Ultimatum Game.

The ultimatum game is a game often played in economic experiments in which two players interact to decide how to divide a sum of money that is given to them. The first player proposes how to divide the sum between the two players, and the second player can either accept or reject this proposal. If the second player rejects, neither player receives anything. If the second player accepts, the money is split according to the proposal.

Fairness in this case overrules the logic. Both from the point of view of the proposer as well as the rejector.

Looking through the prism of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, we know that emotions are the guiding force for our decisions and consequently behavior. And it is our emotional mind that is able to gauge fairness. The logical mind is often busy looking  at correctness and misses out in the decision making process. In matters of public behavior and governmental policies, we need to account for fairness and not just correctness. When given the governing responsibility we often work with ‘What is Correct’ rather than ‘What is Fair’ leading to negative popular sentiments.

Take the case of the recent court verdict asking an Indian English Language news channel to Pay Rs.1000 M ($20M) to an individual for a minor misrepresentation of the individuals photograph on a channel. This despite the channel running scrollers for 4 days in a row apologizing for the 2-3 seconds error. The way I understood it, was an attempt by the courts to teach blatant and at times irresponsible media a lesson. Agree completely. But what the Rs.1000 M ($20M) does is, with one stroke convert the ‘Correct’ into ‘Unfair’. Reason why in debates across mediums, I get to hear that this is not right. I personally am of the belief that media needs to be pulled up for irresponsible behavior, only now to ask – ‘Is it courts duty to teach lessons or stay within its limits of providing justice’. That’s what a sense of unfairness does.

Kapil Sibal’s recent attempt to curb the freedom of the internet, is another case of being seen as unfair rather than Correct/ Incorrect. Putting all facts together it is correct to regulate this medium as much as other mediums are regulated. Neither more nor less. More so in communally sensitive country like India, where unwarranted and irresponsible comments can have huge implications. The popular sentiment though is of Unfairness. This time around guided by the recent context of the success of the Anna Hazare campaign against corruption, and the middle eastern revolution that were both heavily led by the social Internet media. The biggest driver of the sense of unfairness is the belief that the government response is prompted by the recent unflattering images of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh  that were uploaded on the social sites.

The lessons are clear.

In public (human) opinion Unfair + Correct = Incorrect

The government needs to ensure that in trying to be ‘Correct’ it in no way offers a sense of ‘Unfairness’ leading to quick undoing of all good intentions.

Democracy itself is more Fair than Correct.

Why should then Fairness/ Unfairness not be the great parameter that guide policy.

Photo Source: Getty Images

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