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The Indirect Evolutionary Approach to Explaining Fair Allocations

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  • Huck, Steffen
  • Oechssler, Jorg

Abstract

Experimental results on the ultimatum game show clearly that (1) large fractions of players offer a 'fair' allocation and (2) that unfair (but positive) offers are systematically rejected. We offer an explanation of this behavior using the 'indirect evolutionary approach' which is based on the assumption that players behave rationally for given preferences but that their preferences change through an evolutionary process. We prove that despite anonymous interaction a preference for punishing unfair offers is an evolutionarily successful strategy if players interact in small groups. This leads players to split the resource equally almost always. However, the equal split is not due to 'true fairness' (or 'altruism') but is entirely caused by the (justified) fear that unfair offers might be rejected.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 28 (1999)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
Pages: 13-24

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:28:y:1999:i:1:p:13-24

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622836

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  1. Kirchsteiger, Georg, 1994. "The role of envy in ultimatum games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 373-389, December.
  2. Harrison, Glenn W & McCabe, Kevin A, 1996. "Expectations and Fairness in a Simple Bargaining Experiment," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 303-27.
  3. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
  4. Steffen Huck & Georg Kirchsteiger & Jörg Oechssler, 2005. "Learning to like what you have - explaining the endowment effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(505), pages 689-702, 07.
  5. R. Cressman, K.H. Schlag, 1995. "The Dynamic (In)Stability of Backwards Induction," Discussion Paper Serie B 347, University of Bonn, Germany.
  6. G. Noldeke & L. Samuelson, 2010. "An Evolutionary Analysis of Backward and Forward Induction," Levine's Working Paper Archive 538, David K. Levine.
  7. V. Prasnikar & A. Roth, 1998. "Considerations of fairness and strategy: experimental data from sequential games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 451, David K. Levine.
  8. Samuelson, L. & Zhang, J., 1991. "Evolutionary Stability in Asymmetric Games," Papers 9132, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
  9. Gale, John & Binmore, Kenneth G. & Samuelson, Larry, 1995. "Learning to be imperfect: The ultimatum game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 56-90.
  10. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  11. Gary E Bolton & Rami Zuwick, 2010. "Anonymity versus punishments in ultimatum bargaining," Levine's Working Paper Archive 826, David K. Levine.
  12. Thaler, Richard H, 1988. "The Ultimatum Game," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 195-206, Fall.
  13. Friedman, Daniel, 1991. "Evolutionary Games in Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 637-66, May.
  14. Samuelson, Larry & Zhang, Jianbo, 1992. "Evolutionary stability in asymmetric games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 363-391, August.
  15. Bolton, Gary E, 1991. "A Comparative Model of Bargaining: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1096-136, December.
  16. Becker, Gary S, 1976. "Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 817-26, September.
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