Power and fairness in a generalized ultimatum game.
ABSTRACT: Power is the ability to influence others towards the attainment of specific goals, and it is a fundamental force that shapes behavior at all levels of human existence. Several theories on the nature of power in social life exist, especially in the context of social influence. Yet, in bargaining situations, surprisingly little is known about its role in shaping social preferences. Such preferences are considered to be the main explanation for observed behavior in a wide range of experimental settings. In this work, we set out to understand the role of bargaining power in the stylized environment of a Generalized Ultimatum Game (GUG). We modify the payoff structure of the standard Ultimatum Game (UG) to investigate three situations: two in which the power balance is either against the proposer or against the responder, and a balanced situation. We find that other-regarding preferences, as measured by the amount of money donated by participants, do not change with the amount of power, but power changes the offers and acceptance rates systematically. Notably, unusually high acceptance rates for lower offers were observed. This finding suggests that social preferences may be invariant to the balance of power and confirms that the role of power on human behavior deserves more attention.
Project description:Participants in the Ultimatum Game will often reject unfair resource allocations at personal cost, reflecting a trade-off between financial gain and maintenance of social standing. Although this rejection behavior is linked to executive control, the exact role of cognitive regulation in relation to status cues is unclear. We propose that the salience of status cues affects how cognitive regulation resolves the conflict between financial gain and social status considerations. Situations that tax executive control by limiting available cognitive resources should increase acceptance rates for unfair offers, particularly when the conflict between economic self-interest and social reputation is high. Here, participants rated their own subjective social status, and then either mentally counted (Load) or ignored (No Load) simultaneously-presented tones while playing two rounds of the Ultimatum Game with an online (sham) "Proposer" of either high or low social status. A logistic regression revealed an interaction of Proposer status with cognitive load. Compared to the No Load group, the Load group showed higher acceptance rates for unfair offers from the high-status Proposer. In contrast, cognitive load did not influence acceptance rates for unfair offers from the low-status Proposer. Additionally, Proposer status interacted with the relative social distance between participant and Proposer. Participants close in social distance to the high-status Proposer were more likely to accept the unfair offer than those farther in social distance, whereas the opposite pattern was observed for offers from the low-status Proposer. Although rejection of unfair offers in the Ultimatum Game has previously been conceptualized as an intuitive response, these results instead suggest it reflects a deliberative strategy, dependent on cognitive resources, to prioritize social standing over short-term financial gain. This study reveals the dynamic interplay of cognitive resources and status concerns within this paradigm, providing new insights into when and why people reject inequitable divisions of resources.
Project description:The accumulation of findings that most responders in the ultimatum game reject unfair offers provides evidence that humans are driven by social preferences such as preferences for fairness and prosociality. On the other hand, if and how the proposer's behavior is affected by social preferences remains unelucidated. We addressed this question for the first time by manipulating the knowledge that the proposer had about the responder's belief concerning the intentionality of the proposer. In a new game called the "ultimatum game with ambiguous intentions of the proposer (UGAMB)," we made the intentionality of the proposer ambiguous to the recipient. We expected and found that the proposer would make more unfair offers in this new game than in the standard ultimatum game. This expectation can be derived from either the preference-based model or the strategy model of the proposer's giving decision. The additional finding that more unfair giving in the UGAMB was not mediated by the proposer's expectation that the recipient would be more willing to accept unfair offers provided support for the preference-based model. Using a psychological measure of cognitive control, the preference-based model received additional support through a conceptual replication of the previous finding that cognitive control of intuitive drive for prosociality in the dictator game, rather than mind reading in the ultimatum game, is responsible for the difference in giving between the two games.
Project description:The present study investigates how different emotions can alter social bargaining behavior. An important paradigm to study social bargaining is the Ultimatum Game. There, a proposer gets a pot of money and has to offer part of it to a responder. If the responder accepts, both players get the money as proposed by the proposer. If he rejects, none of the players gets anything. Rational choice models would predict that responders accept all offers above 0. However, evidence shows that responders typically reject a large proportion of all unfair offers. We analyzed participants' behavior when they played the Ultimatum Game as responders and simultaneously collected electroencephalogram data in order to quantify the feedback-related negativity and P3b components. We induced state affect (momentarily emotions unrelated to the task) via short movie clips and measured trait affect (longer-lasting emotional dispositions) via questionnaires. State happiness led to increased acceptance rates of very unfair offers. Regarding neurophysiology, we found that unfair offers elicited larger feedback-related negativity amplitudes than fair offers. Additionally, an interaction of state and trait affect occurred: high trait negative affect (subsuming a variety of aversive mood states) led to increased feedback-related negativity amplitudes when participants were in an angry mood, but not if they currently experienced fear or happiness. We discuss that increased rumination might be responsible for this result, which might not occur, however, when people experience happiness or fear. Apart from that, we found that fair offers elicited larger P3b components than unfair offers, which might reflect increased pleasure in response to fair offers. Moreover, high trait negative affect was associated with decreased P3b amplitudes, potentially reflecting decreased motivation to engage in activities. We discuss implications of our results in the light of theories and research on depression and anxiety.
Project description:The ultimatum game (UG) is widely used to study human bargaining behavior and fairness norms. In this game, two players have to agree on how to split a sum of money. The proposer makes an offer, which the responder can accept or reject. If the responder rejects, neither player gets anything. The prevailing view is that, beyond self-interest, the desire to equalize both players' payoffs (i.e., fairness) is the crucial motivation in the UG. Based on this view, previous research suggests that fairness is a short-run oriented motive that conflicts with the long-run goal of self-interest. However, competitive spite, which reflects an antisocial (not norm-based) desire to minimize others' payoffs, can also account for the behavior observed in the UG, and has been linked to short-run, present-oriented aspirations as well. In this paper, we explore the relationship between individuals' intertemporal preferences and their behavior in a citywide dual-role UG experiment (N = 713). We find that impatience (short-run orientation) predicts the rejection of low, "unfair" offers as responder and the proposal of low, "unfair" offers as proposer, which is consistent with spitefulness but inconsistent with fairness motivations. This behavior systematically reduces the payoffs of those who interact with impatient individuals. Thus, impatient individuals appear to be keen to minimize their partners' share of the pie, even at the risk of destroying it. These findings indicate that competitively reducing other's payoffs, rather than fairness (or self-interest), is the short-run goal in ultimatum bargaining.
Project description:The ultimatum bargaining game (UBG), a widely used method in experimental economics, clearly demonstrates that motives other than pure monetary reward play a role in human economic decision making. In this study, we explore the behaviour and physiological reactions of both responders and proposers in an ultimatum bargaining game using heart rate variability (HRV), a small and nonintrusive technology that allows observation of both sides of an interaction in a normal experimental economics laboratory environment. We find that low offers by a proposer cause signs of mental stress in both the proposer and the responder; that is, both exhibit high ratios of low to high frequency activity in the HRV spectrum.
Project description:The neural correlates of rejection in bargaining situations when proposing a fair or unfair offer are not yet well understood. We measured neural responses to rejection and acceptance of monetary offers with event-related potentials (ERPs) in mid-adolescents (14-17 years) and early adults (19-24 years). Participants played multiple rounds of the Ultimatum Game as proposers, dividing coins between themselves and a second player (responder) by making a choice between an unfair distribution (7 coins for proposer and 3 for responder; 7/3) and one of two alternatives: a fair distribution (5/5) or a hyperfair distribution (3/7). Participants mostly made fair offers (5/5) when the alternative was unfair (7/3), but made mostly unfair offers (7/3) when the alternative was hyperfair (3/7). When participants' fair offers (5/5; alternative was 7/3) were rejected this was associated with a larger Medial Frontal Negativity (MFN) compared to acceptance of fair offers and rejection of unfair offers (7/3; alternative was 3/7). Also, the MFN was smaller after acceptance of unfair offers (7/3) compared to rejection. These neural responses did not differ between adults and mid-adolescents, suggesting that the MFN reacts as a neural alarm system to social prediction errors which is already prevalent during adolescence.
Project description:Many mathematically gifted adolescents are characterized as being indolent, underachieving and unsuccessful despite their high cognitive ability. This is often due to difficulties with social and emotional development. However, research on social and emotional interactions in gifted adolescents has been limited. The purpose of this study was to observe differences in complex social strategic behaviors between gifted and average adolescents of the same age using the repeated Ultimatum Game. Twenty-two gifted adolescents and 24 average adolescents participated in the Ultimatum Game. Two adolescents participate in the game, one as a proposer and the other as a responder. Because of its simplicity, the Ultimatum Game is an apt tool for investigating complex human emotional and cognitive decision-making in an empirical setting. We observed strategic but socially impaired offers from gifted proposers and lower acceptance rates from gifted responders, resulting in lower total earnings in the Ultimatum Game. Thus, our results indicate that mathematically gifted adolescents have deficiencies in social valuation and mentalization.
Project description:The Ultimatum Game (UG) is an economic game where two players (proposer and responder) decide how to split a certain amount of money. While traditional economic theories based on rational decision making predict that the proposer should make a minimal offer and the responder should accept it, human subjects tend to behave more fairly in UG. Previous studies suggested that extra information such as reputation, empathy, or spatial structure is needed for fairness to evolve in UG. Here we show that fairness can evolve without additional information if players make decisions probabilistically and may continue interactions when the offer is rejected, which we call the Not Quite Ultimatum Game (NQUG). Evolutionary simulations of NQUG showed that the probabilistic decision making contributes to the increase of proposers' offer amounts to avoid rejection, while the repetition of the game works to responders' advantage because they can wait until a good offer comes. These simple extensions greatly promote evolution of fairness in both proposers' offers and responders' acceptance thresholds.
Project description:In the Ultimatum Game, two players are offered a chance to win a pie. The proposer suggests how to split the pie. The responder can either accept or reject the deal. If an agreement is not reached, neither player gets anything. Both game theory and evolutionary game theory predict the rational solution that the proposer offers the smallest possible share and the responder accepts it. Fairness thus requires additional mechanisms for natural selection to favor it. Studies to date assumed that individuals have competed for the fixed size of pies, in sharp contrast with real situations, where randomness is ubiquitous. Here we study the impact of random allocation of pies on the evolution of fairness in the Ultimatum Game. Interestingly, we find that the evolution of fairness can be promoted by the randomness associated with the size of pies, without the support of any additional evolutionary mechanisms.
Project description:Impaired decision-making has recently gained recognition as a component of the suicidal diathesis. Yet, although precipitants and particularly deterrents to suicidal behavior are often interpersonal, little is known about social decision-making in suicidal individuals. This study employed a novel version of the Ultimatum Game to investigate how empathy moderates responses to social conflict in 149 older adults, comprising groups of suicide attempters (n = 49), suicide ideators (n = 32), non-suicidal depressed controls (n = 33), and a non-psychiatric control group (n = 35). Participants acted as responder to a series of single-shot financial offers that varied in fairness. Some offers were paired with social context information on the proposer, designed to evoke either empathy or punishment. Offer acceptance was sensitive to Fairness and Social Context, such that participants accepted more offers in the empathy condition and fewer offers in the punishment condition. A Group * Context interaction was observed, wherein the suicide attempters adjusted their acceptance rates less in the empathy condition than the non-psychiatric controls. Thus, older adults with a history of suicide attempt were less influenced by empathy scenarios, indicating that a failure to integrate others' emotions into decisions may undermine social deterrents to suicide.