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Accepting Zero in the Ultimatum Game Does Not Reflect Selfish Preferences

Author

Listed:
  • Gianandrea Staffiero

    (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

  • Filippos Exadaktylos

    (BELIS, Murat Sertel Center for Advanced Economic Studies,Istanbul Bilgi University)

  • Antonio M. Espín

    (Universidad de Granada, Departamento de Teoría e Historia Económica,)

Abstract

The rejection of unfair proposals in ultimatum games is often quoted as evidence of other-regarding preferences. In this paper we focus on those responders who accept any proposals, setting the minimum acceptable offer (MAO) at zero. While this behavior could result from the randomization between the two payoff-maximizing strategies (i.e. setting MAO at zero or at the smallest positive amount), it also implies that the opponent’s payoff is maximized and the “pie” remains intact. We match subjects’ behavior as ultimatum responders with their choices in the dictator game, in two large-scale experiments. We find that those who set MAO at zero are the most generous dictators. Moreover, they differ substantially from responders whose MAO is the smallest positive offer, who are the greediest dictators. Thus, an interpretation of zero MAOs in terms of selfish, payoff-maximizing behavior could be misleading. Our evidence indicates that the restraint from punishing others can be driven by altruism and by the desire to maximize social welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Gianandrea Staffiero & Filippos Exadaktylos & Antonio M. Espín, 2012. "Accepting Zero in the Ultimatum Game Does Not Reflect Selfish Preferences," Working Papers 201203, Murat Sertel Center for Advanced Economic Studies, Istanbul Bilgi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:msc:wpaper:201203
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    File URL: http://repeck.bilgi.edu.tr/RePEc/msc/wpaper/mscenter_2012_03_Accepting_Zero.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Brice Corgnet & Antonio M. Espín & Roberto Hernán-González, 2015. "The cognitive basis of social behavior: cognitive reflection overrides antisocial but not always prosocial motives," Working Papers 15-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    2. Pablo Brañas-Garza & Antonio M. Espín & Shoshana Neuman, 2013. "Effects of Religiosity on Social Behaviour: Experimental Evidence From a Representative Sample of Spaniards," Working Papers 2013-07, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    ultimatum game; dictator game; altruism; social welfare; costly punishment; selfishness; social preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General

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