Barsky, Kaplan and Beal discuss their article, “Just Feelings? The Role of Affect in the Formation of Organizational Fairness Judgments.”

Adam Barsky, Seth A. Kaplan and Daniel J. Beal discuss their article, “Just Feelings? The Role of Affect in the Formation of Organizational Fairness Judgments.” recently published in the Journal of Management. 

* Who is the target audience for this article?

This article is targeted at researchers interested in the different ways in which affect and justice perceptions are related. Specifically, the justice literature seems to be moving strongly in the affective direction in the past few years after a long history of focusing on the more cognitive questions with respect to justice (i.e., What constitutes fair process? How do individuals evaluate their inputs and outcomes, etc.). We hope that our paper provides a framework for studying role of feelings as both an input and outcome of justice perceptions

* What Inspired You To Be Interested In This Topic?

The initial inspiration for this topic came from the nephew of the first author back in 2003.  When playing a game with friends, the outcome was not what he would have liked (he lost), and he cried that it was unfair. In conversation about the incident, it occurred to us that people often do not consider objectively how they are treated (i.e., free from bias) when they feel unfairness, but instead may use fairness as an explanation or post-hoc rationalization for their feelings.  Investigating the issue further, Drs. Barsky and Kaplan published a meta-analysis linking affect and justice perceptions in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2007, and then sought to develop a more complete conceptual framework along with Dr. Beal in the theory paper now in press at the Journal of Management.    

* Were There Findings That Were Surprising To You?

Since our paper is theoretical, there are no new empirical “findings” per se.  However, our thinking certainly evolved over the course of the development of the manuscript.  While we began with a fairly simplistic model, as we became exposed to the extensive and nuanced affect literature, the multiplicity of pathways linking justice and feelings became apparent. As we worked through the thorny issues, such as the difference between emotion and mood effects, we were constantly surprised by the ingenuity of affect and justice researchers in addressing the problems in their primary research. 

* How Do You See This Study Influencing Future Research And/Or Practice?

Any theoretical paper servers as both a summation of a body of knowledge, and as a means of generating new primary research.  We attempted to pack our paper as full of new ideas as we could fit, with the hope that some would stick in people’s minds and encourage them to investigate further what we consider to be an interesting and important area of research.  In general, our paper is aligned with a general trend within the discipline toward greater appreciation of the affective context in which judgment and decision-making occur.  The paper’s practical application is in suggesting that management of feelings and the emotional context are critical considerations alongside the management of information and objectives.

* How Does This Study Fit Into Your Body Of Work/Line Of Research?

The first two authors have been investigating the role of affect in organizational judgments for a number of years, including meta-analyses published in Psychological Bulletin (Thoresen, Kaplan, Barsky, Warren, & de Chermont, 2003) and the Journal of Applied Psychology (Barsky & Kaplan, 2007), and the third author has investigated affective influences on work behaviors in both theoretical (Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005) and empirical (Beal, Trougakos, Weiss, & Green, 2006; Beal & Ghandour, in press; Trougakos, Beal, Green, & Weiss, 2008) papers. The basic question of how people make sense of their feelings within the workplace has been a common question that has drawn us together.

* How Did Your Paper Change During The Review Process?

The paper was re-written basically from scratch no less than 4 times during the review process which spanned almost 3 years and multiple journals.  The evolution of the paper is perhaps better described as punctuated equilibrium than as a slow and gradual process of development. The size and complexity of both the affect and justice fields, and the lack of agreement about basic definitional issues within each field, caused us to continually re-evaluate the assumptions upon which the structure of the paper rested.  We were lucky to have very competent and highly developmental reviewers and editors throughout the process who challenged us to truly create a meaningful contribution to the field. 

* What, If Anything, Would You Do Differently If You Could Go Back And Do This Study Again?

On one hand, having an accepted paper at a prestigious outlet suggests that the answer to that question is “nothing.” On the other hand, when we consider the various incarnations of the paper, another obvious answer would be to skip those intermediate steps and head right to where we ended up (presumably saving us almost 3 years). Of course, we could never have ended where we did without the benefit of our earlier thinking on the topic. Ultimately, if we think about what would have saved us a great deal of time and effort, we’d have to say that spending a little less time exploring tangential implications of the theories we were working with and spending a little more time considering the broader structure of the paper and its storyline would have helped tremendously.


Barsky, A. & Kaplan, S. A. (2007). If you feel bad, it’s unfair: A quantitative synthesis of affect and organizational justice perceptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 286-295 

Beal, D. J. & Ghandour, L. (in press). Stability, change, and the stability of change in daily workplace affect. Special issue on Intraindividual Processes Linking Work and Employee Well-Being, Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Beal, D. J., Trougakos, J. P., Weiss, H. M., & Green, S. G. (2006). Episodic processes in emotional labor:  Perceptions of affective delivery and regulation strategies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 1053-1065.

Beal, D. J., Weiss, H. M., Barros, E., & MacDermid, S. M. (2005).  An episodic process model of affective influences on performance.  Special issue on Theoretical Models and Conceptual Analyses, Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1054-1068.

Thoresen, C. J., Kaplan, S. A., Barsky, A. P., Warren, C. R. & de Charmont, K. (2003). The affective underpinnings of job perceptions and attitudes: A meta-analytic review and integration. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 914-945

Trougakos, J. P., Beal, D. J., Green, S. G., & Weiss, H. M. (2008). Making the break count:  An episodic examination of recovery activities, emotional experiences, and positive affective displays. Academy of Management Journal, 51, 131-146.

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