Grade Expectations: The Effects of Expectations on Fairness and Satisfaction Perceptions

Bennett Cherry, Lisa D. Ordóñez, Stephen W. Gilliland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Previous research has documented the impact of self-derived expectations as reference points in the evaluation of outcomes (e.g. Ordóñez, Connolly, & Coughlan, 2000; van den Bos et al., 1998). In the present paper we extend these studies by investigating the effects of individuals' performance expectations on their subsequent evaluations of personally-relevant outcomes. In three separate studies, both in the laboratory and in the field, students' actual grade outcomes fell short, met, or exceeded grade expectations. From this information, the students evaluated their fairness and satisfaction with the actual grade outcome. The studies provide complementary results that distinguish fairness and satisfaction as different constructs based on the impact of expectations on evaluations of actual outcomes. Results demonstrate that expectations are important to perceptions of fairness and are less important to perceptions of satisfaction. Fairness judgments appear to be governed by an expectation matching proposition; whereby if the expectation is met, the outcome is fair. Whereas, satisfaction judgments are determined by the value of the actual outcome to the individual. Participants also evaluate the fairness of outcomes differently using hypothetical scenarios than they do when they experience actual outcomes in natural contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-395
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Expectation
  • Fairness
  • Grades
  • Perceptions
  • Satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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