Commonsense justice (N. J. Finkel, 1995b) is said to reflect what "ordinary
people think is just and fair" (p. 2), yet little is known about "fair," a
nd whether it reflects anything different than "just." As cries of "but it'
s not fair!" are shrill and frequent, 4 studies and 2 experiments were unde
rtaken to elucidate the essence of unfairness. In the 4 studies, college st
udents, tots and teens (ages 4-17), adults (ages 25-60), and elderly partic
ipants (ages 60-95) detailed their unfairnesses, which yielded more than 5,
000 instances, and from these an inclusive and reliable scheme for type of
unfairness and for who or what is to blame resulted. Unfairness claims are
not petty whines, in the main, but legitimate complaints, and outsider rate
rs see them that way as well; nor are they simply narcissistic, for unfairn
ess claims that happen to others engender the greatest heat. With basic not
ions of "unfairness" underlying so many of our judgments regarding legal, p
olitical, and interpersonal proceedings, this basic research attempts to fi
ll a large gap in our understanding of commonsense fairness and unfairness.