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Ultimatum Game behavior in light of attachment theory

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  • Almakias, Shaul
  • Weiss, Avi

Abstract

In this paper we import a mainstream psychological theory, known as attachment theory, into economics and show the implications of this theory for economic behavior by individuals in the ultimatum bargaining game. Attachment theory examines the psychological tendency to seek proximity to another person, to feel secure when that person is present, and to feel anxious when that person is absent. An individual’s attachment style can be classified along two-dimensional axes, one representing attachment “avoidance” and one representing attachment “anxiety”. Avoidant people generally feel discomfort when being close to others, have trouble trusting people and distance themselves from intimate or revealing situations. Anxious people have a fear of abandonment and of not being loved. Utilizing attachment theory, we evaluate the connection between attachment types and economic decision making, and find that in an Ultimatum Game both proposers’ and responders’ behavior can be explained by their attachment styles, as implied by the theory. We demonstrate how knowledge of the attachment type of the responder can be utilized by the proposer in order to maximize his expected income. We believe this theory has implications for economic behavior in different settings, such as negotiations, in general, and more specifically, may help explain behavior, and perhaps even anomalies, in other experimental settings.

Suggested Citation

  • Almakias, Shaul & Weiss, Avi, 2012. "Ultimatum Game behavior in light of attachment theory," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 515-526.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:33:y:2012:i:3:p:515-526 DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2011.12.012
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roth, Alvin E. & Vesna Prasnikar & Masahiro Okuno-Fujiwara & Shmuel Zamir, 1991. "Bargaining and Market Behavior in Jerusalem, Ljubljana, Pittsburgh, and Tokyo: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1068-1095, December.
    2. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 2001. "Chivalry and Solidarity in Ultimatum Games," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 171-188, April.
    3. Schotter, Andrew & Weiss, Avi & Zapater, Inigo, 1996. "Fairness and survival in ultimatum and dictatorship games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 37-56, October.
    4. Meyer, Heinz-Dieter, 1992. "Norms and self-interest in ultimatum bargaining: The prince's prudence," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 215-232, June.
    5. Swope, Kurtis J. & Cadigan, John & Schmitt, Pamela M. & Shupp, Robert, 2008. "Personality preferences in laboratory economics experiments," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 998-1009, June.
    6. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Attachment theory; Experimental economics; Behavioral economics; Ultimatum Game; Psychology and economics;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory

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