A few years ago, National Science Foundation-funded researchers, were playing President, a card game, when they noticed winners attributing the game's outcome to skill and losers blaming their defeat on the rules. They adapted their idea into the Swap Game, a simple card game they rigged to favor either winners or losers, in a study designed to measure perceptions of inequality. They found that winners were far more likely to believe the game's outcome was fair, even when it was heavily tilted in their favor by rules requiring losers to hand over their strongest cards. As inequality becomes increasingly rampant around the world, the study offers insights into how people perceive opportunity, failure and success. In real life, inequality can operate in opaque ways, making it difficult to determine whether people succeed through talent, skill, luck or advantage. Though the study's findings can't easily be generalized to society at large, they have potential implications for how public policy to combat inequality might be implemented, the researchers said.
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