Van den Bos, K., & Van Prooijen, J.-W. (2001). Referent cognitions theory: The psychology of voice depends on closeness of reference points. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 616-626.


The most generally accepted and best documented manipulation in procedural justice experiments is varying whether or not participants are allowed an opportunity to voice their opinion about a decision. To better understand the psychology of voice, the authors focus on Referent Cognitions Theory (RCT). It is argued that thus far RCT has not been used to explain the psychology of voice and that previous RCT research suffers from methodological problems and has been more outcome oriented than necessary. Two experiments resolve these problems and show that people react more strongly to procedures (especially no-voice procedures) when reference points are close as opposed to distant. These findings suggest that closeness of reference points plays an important role in the psychology of voice. The findings expand RCT in significant ways and indicate that insight into the role of reference points is essential for understanding the psychology of justice.