Citizen perceptions of procedural fairness and the moderating roles of ‘belief in a just world’ and ‘public service motivation’ in public hiring

AuthorMogens Jin Pedersen,Gabel Taggart,Justin M. Stritch
Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
Citizen perceptions of procedural fairness and
the moderating roles of belief in a just worldand
public service motivationin public hiring
Mogens Jin Pedersen
| Justin M. Stritch
| Gabel Taggart
Department of Social Policy and Welfare,
VIVE The Danish Centre of Applied Social
Science, Copenhagen, Denmark
School of Public Affairs, Arizona State
University, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Mogens Jin Pedersen, Department of Social
Policy and Welfare, VIVE The Danish Centre
of Applied Social Science, Herluf Trolles Gade
11, 1052 Copenhagen, Denmark.
This article expands our knowledge of how variation in public adminis-
trative processes affects citizen perceptions of procedural fairness
(CPPF). Focusing on a specific administrative processthe selection
and hiring processwe use a survey experimental design among
823 US citizens and examine the effect of a public hiring process
involving the appearance of advocacy from an applicant's social con-
tacts on CPPF. Moreover, we theoretically and empirically examine
the moderating effects of two psychological constructs: belief in a just
worldand public service motivation. We find that citizens rate the
procedural fairness of a hiring situation much lower when the situa-
tion appears to be influenced by an applicant's social contacts. How-
ever, citizens who report stronger belief in a just worldhave less
concern with a hiring process marked by advocacy, whereas citizens
with higher levels of public service motivationhave more concern.
Citizen trust in government and the public sector is a cornerstone for the effective functioning of public institutions
(Thomas 1998; Kim 2005; Rothstein 2012). As an enabler of effective interactions between public organizations
and citizens, citizen trust in government and the public sector is especially important for the successful provision of
public goods and services that depend on cooperation from citizens (Van Ryzin 2011; Rothstein 2012). At the same
time, citizen trust in government appears to be deteriorating in many OECD countries (OECD 2015; Pew Research
Center 2015). Scholars have identified a range of societal trends that may explain the declining trust, such as a gen-
eral decrease in interpersonal trust (Fukuyama 1999), a greater orientation towards post-materialist values
(Inglehart 1997), and negative media coverage focused more on conflict than substance (Orren 1997).
Van Ryzin (2011) notes how the government performance movement in the United States and Europe has
tended to assume that governments can restore public trust by producing outcomes that matter to citizens. Chal-
lenging this assumption, some research suggests that perceptions of fairness of public administrative processes are
at least as important as actual outcomes to the formation of trust among citizens (Tyler 1990, 2001; Van Ryzin
2011; Van de Walle 2013). More research on the factors affecting how citizens perceive the procedural fairness of
the function and work of public organizations is therefore needed.
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12353
874 © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Public Administration. 2017;95:874894.
This article expands our understanding of the factors shaping citizens' perceptions of procedural fairness
(CPPF), defined as the extent to which citizens perceive the processes and procedures governing the function and
work of government and public administration as fair. While we do not directly investigate citizen trust in govern-
ment and public administration, the perceived fairness of administrative processes and procedures is a significant
component in citizen trust formation (Tyler 1990, 2001; Van Ryzin 2011; Van de Walle 2013). Using a survey
experiment administered to 823 US citizens, our examination focuses on a particular administrative process ubiqui-
tous in governments: the process guiding selection and hiring in the public sector. As we discuss later, in theory, for-
mal regulations and guidelines define these processes in order to achieve merit-based systems of personnel
recruitment and selection. In reality, however, public sector selection and hiring can be influenced by other factors,
such as informal advocacy from an applicant's social contacts (former co-workers, friends, and relatives). Based on
evidence suggesting that hiring situations involving advocacy from an applicant's social connections are fairly com-
mon and that many people are well-aware of this (shown later), we ask: How does a hiring situation potentially
influenced by advocacy from an applicant's social contacts affect CPPF?
Moreover, this article begins to examine how psychological constructs moderate the effect of administrative
processes on CPPF. Understanding the cognitive factors shaping citizens' perceptions of fairness in response to dif-
ferent public administrative processes is essential for the successful design of future procedural initiatives that will
also positively affect citizens' trust (Moynihan et al. 2015). Indeed, our approach draws from the psychological and
behavioural sciences and is consistent with calls to more strongly link these research traditions to public administra-
tion scholarship (Grimmelikhuijsen et al. 2017).
Motivation can affect human reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes that are used to
construct and evaluate beliefs (Kunda 1990). As motivated reasoning has been a framework used to understand
everything from political decision-making (Redlawsk 2002) to unethical behaviour (Bersoff 1999), it may also help
explain how individuals' beliefs and attitudes influence how administrative processes affect CPPF. We examine the
effects of two psycho-social constructs—‘belief in a just world(BJW) and public service motivation(PSM)on the
relationship between the appearance of social advocacy in a public sector hiring process and CPPF. Specifically, we
ask: How do BJW and PSM moderate the extent to which a hiring situation based on advocacy from an applicant's
social contacts affects CPPF?
We focus on the BJW and PSM constructs for two reasons. First, while research has examined both the corre-
lates and outcomes of BJW (Furnham 2003; Dalbert 2009) and PSM (Perry et al. 2010; Ritz et al. 2013), research
has yet to examine their roles in shaping how citizens interpret different public administrative processes. Second,
juxtaposing BJW and PSM is relevant in light of the theoretically interesting commonalities and differences among
the constructs. Both constructs relate to normative beliefs about the distribution of public goods, including the pro-
cesses guiding the distribution of public sector jobs. As we elaborate later, theory supports that both BJW and PSM
moderate the effect of the appearance of social advocacy in a hiring process on CPPF. However, the two constructs
differ fundamentally with respect to what constitutes the appropriate allocation of public goods. While PSM is asso-
ciated with a normative notion of fair and equitable processes, BJW represents a worldview where individuals
rationalize any outcome as being deserved. While PSM suggests that the allocation of public goods should be proce-
durally fair, BJW suggests that the allocation of public goods is inherently fair. This difference leads to hypotheses
of moderation effects in opposite directions that call for empirical testing that will offer insights into how the two
constructs influence citizen interpretations of the public administrative routines and practices.
This article makes two important contributions to the literature. First, our examination of how variation in the
administrative process characterizing public sector selection and hiring may affect CPPF offers new insights into the
importance of administrative processes to citizens' perceptions of fairness. While public administration research is
concerned with citizen trust in government and the public sector (Bouckaert 2012; Christensen and Lægreid 2002;
Yang and Holzer 2006; Vigoda-Gadot 2007; Kim 2010), scholars have given relatively little consideration to the
ways that internal processes and procedures of government agencies are experienced and interpreted by citizens as
fair (for an exception, see Moynihan et al. 2015).

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT