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To pay or to apologize? On the psychology of dealing with unfair offers in a dictator game


  • De Cremer, David


Prior research has largely failed to focus on how transgressors can promote trust when having made unfair offers in bargaining. I investigated in the context of receiving an unfair offer in a dictator game when financial compensations and when apologies are most effective in motivating trust behavior by the violated party. I hypothesized that when losses were allocated, the violated party would be motivated to show more trust behavior towards the transgressor when a financial compensation (resulting again in equal final outcomes) relative to an apology was delivered, whereas when gains were allocated, apologies would be more effective in promoting trust behavior than a financial compensation. Results from a laboratory study indeed supported this prediction as such demonstrating the importance of how allocation decisions are framed (i.e., loss or gain) in testing the effectiveness of trust repair strategies (financial compensations vs. apologies).

Suggested Citation

  • De Cremer, David, 2010. "To pay or to apologize? On the psychology of dealing with unfair offers in a dictator game," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 843-848, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:31:y:2010:i:6:p:843-848

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. Kim, Peter H. & Dirks, Kurt T. & Cooper, Cecily D. & Ferrin, Donald L., 2006. "When more blame is better than less: The implications of internal vs. external attributions for the repair of trust after a competence- vs. integrity-based trust violation," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 49-65, January.
    8. 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.
    9. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-741, September.
    10. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
    11. De Cremer, David & van Dijk, Eric & Pillutla, Madan M., 2010. "Explaining Unfair Offers in Ultimatum Games and their Effects on Trust: An Experimental Approach," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(01), pages 107-126, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Desmet, Pieter T.M. & Leunissen, Joost M., 2014. "How many pennies for your pain? Willingness to compensate as a function of expected future interaction and intentionality feedback," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 105-113.
    2. Natàlia Cugueró-Escofet & Marion Fortin & Miguel-Angel Canela, 2014. "Righting the Wrong for Third Parties: How Monetary Compensation, Procedure Changes and Apologies Can Restore Justice for Observers of Injustice," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 122(2), pages 253-268, June.
    3. Ben Gilbert & Alexander James & Jason F. Shogren, 2018. "Corporate apology for environmental damage," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 56(1), pages 51-81, February.
    4. Leunissen, Joost M. & Cremer, David De & Reinders Folmer, Christopher P., 2012. "An instrumental perspective on apologizing in bargaining: The importance of forgiveness to apologize," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 215-222.
    5. Haesevoets, Tessa & Reinders Folmer, Chris & De Cremer, David & Van Hiel, Alain, 2013. "Money isn’t all that matters: The use of financial compensation and apologies to preserve relationships in the aftermath of distributive harm," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 95-107.


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