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Cultural Differences in Ultimatum Game Experiments: Evidence from a Meta-Analysis

  • Hessel Oosterbeek


  • Randolph Sloof
  • Gijs van de Kuilen

This paper reports the findings of a meta-analysis of 37 papers with 75 results from ultimatum game experiments. We find that on average the proposer offers 40% of the pie to the responder. This share is smaller for larger pie sizes and larger when a strategy method is used or when subjects are inexperienced. On average 16% of the offers is rejected. The rejection rate is lower for larger pie sizes and for larger shares offered. Responders are less willing to accept an offer when the strategy method is employed. As the results come from different countries, meta-analysis provides an alternative way to investigate whether bargaining behavior in ultimatum games differs across countries. We find differences in behavior of responders (and not of proposers) across geographical regions. With one exception, these differences cannot be attributed to various cultural traits on which for instance the cultural classifications of Hofstede (1991) and Inglehart (2000) are based.

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Article provided by Springer & Economic Science Association in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 7 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 171-188

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Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:7:y:2004:i:2:p:171-188
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  1. Abbink, Klaus & Bolton, Gary E. & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Tang, Fang-Fang, 2001. "Adaptive Learning versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 1-25, October.
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  3. Lensberg, T. & van der Heijden, E.C.M., 1998. "A cross-cultural study of reciprocity, trust and altruism in a gift exchange experiment," Discussion Paper 1998-77, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
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  5. Mitzkewitz, Michael & Nagel, Rosemarie, 1993. "Experimental Results on Ultimatum Games with Incomplete Information," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 22(2), pages 171-98.
  6. Tompkinson, Paul & Bethwaite, Judy, 1995. "The ultimatum game: raising the stakes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 439-451, August.
  7. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S285-300, October.
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  9. Brandts, J. & Saijo, T. & Schram, A., 2000. "A Four Country Comparision of Spite, Cooperation and Errors in Voluntary Contribution Mechanisms," ISER Discussion Paper 0496, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  10. 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.
  11. Kachelmeier, Steven J. & Shehata, Mohamed, 1992. "Culture and competition: A laboratory market comparison between China and the West," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-168, October.
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