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Positive- versus zero-sum majoritarian ultimatum games: An experimental study

  • Hsu, Li-Chen
  • Yang, C.C.
  • Yang, Chun-Lei
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    Politics can involve a movement from a position off the Pareto frontier to a point on it (a positive-sum game as exemplified in the classic [Buchanan, J.M., Tullock, G., 1962. The Calculus of Consent. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor] work), or a movement along the Pareto frontier (a zero-sum game as exemplified in the classic [Riker, W., 1962. The theory of political coalitions. Yale University Press, New Haven] work). In this paper we shed light on their differentiation experimentally by making a comparison between a positive-sum and a zero-sum majoritarian ultimatum game. Our main findings include (i) the fraction of subjects who adopted minimum winning rather than oversized coalitions increases significantly as the game form varies from positive-sum to zero-sum, (ii) oversized coalitions are attributable to non-strategic considerations, and (iii) subjects who choose to adopt the minimum winning coalition have a tendency to seek cheaper responders as their partners in the zero-sum game, but there is no evidence of such a tendency in the positive-sum game. Overall, the weight of the evidence revealed by our experimental data indicates that relative scarcity (embodied in the zero-sum game) promotes behavior more in line with the predictions of economics.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    Volume (Year): 68 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 3-4 (December)
    Pages: 498-510

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:68:y:2008:i:3-4:p:498-510
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