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Youth’s sense-making about fairness from the perspectives of agent vs. object of injustice

3.1 Farther reaches of theoretical and methodological explorations
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
2:18 PM, Tuesday 29 Aug 2017 (24 minutes)
This inquiry brings us closer to understanding some of the ways in which different socioeconomic backgrounds inform adolescents’ sense-making about fairness. Among other questions, I explore how diverse youth make meaning about unfairness as they narrate from the positions of a plausible wrongdoer and an alleged victim of unspecified exclusion.
The study involved 63 adolescents of high-school age, recruited from poor, working, and middle-class neighborhoods of New York City. Narrative as a sense-making tool was used as the data collection/production and analysis approach. Youth's narratives were elicited as responses to a vignette they read, depicting an ambiguous social situation in which occurrence(s) of injustice might have occurred. I explored how diverse youth read the story in terms of eventual injustice present in it; how they position themselves inside the story–are they closer to the position of the ‘victim' or the plausible ‘culprit'; which character they humanize more by attributing them agency through the use of specific narrative strategies.
The findings indicate that while youth from more affluent background does not change their narrating strategies while occupying positions of the culprit and victim of exclusion, their less privileged counterparts express systematically varied use of particular narrative strategies, such as the use of psychological state expressions (phrases that refer to affect and cognition). When positioned as the culprit, underserved youth’s narrating is significantly more saturated with affective than cognitive expressions, and surprisingly, a reversed trend – of using more cognitive than affective expressions – was observed in their narratives from the victim’s perspective. 
The Graduate Center - City University of New York
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