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Homo Æqualis: A Cross-Society Experimental Analysis of Three Bargaining Games

  • Abigail Barr
  • Chris Wallace
  • Jean Ensminger
  • Joseph Henrich
  • Clark Barrette
  • Alexander Bolyanatz
  • Juan Camilo Cardenas
  • Michael Gurven
  • Edwins Gwako
  • Carolyn Lesorogol
  • Frank Marlowe
  • Richard McElreath
  • David Tracer
  • John Ziker

Data from three bargaining games-the Dictator Game, the Ultimatum Game, and the Third-Party Punishment Game-played in 15 societies are presented. The societies range from US undergraduates to Amazonian, Arctic, and African hunter-gatherers. Behaviour within the games varies markedly across societies. The paper investigates whether this behavioural diversity can be explained solely by variations in inequality aversion. Combining a single parameter utility function with the notion of subgame perfection generates a number of testable predictions. While most of these are supported, there are some telling divergences between theory and data: uncertainty and preferences relating to acts of vengeance may have influenced play in the Ultimatum and Third-Party Punishment Games; and a few subjects used the games as an opportunity to engage in costly signalling.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 2009-02.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2009-02
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  1. Andreoni,J. & Castillo,M. & Petrie,R., 2004. "Revealing preferences for fairness in ultimatum bargaining," Working papers 13, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd, 2003. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small- Scale Societies," Microeconomics 0305009, EconWPA.
  3. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  4. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3014, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  6. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Third-party punishment and social norms," Experimental 0409002, EconWPA.
  8. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  9. James Andreoni & Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie, 2003. "What Do Bargainers' Preferences Look Like? Experiments with a Convex Ultimatum Game," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 672-685, June.
  10. 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 1068-95, December.
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