IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Indirect Evolutionary Approach To Explaining Fair Allocations


  • S. HUCK


Experimental results on the ultimatum game show clearly that (1) large fractions of players offer a 'fair' allocation and (2) that unfair (but positive) offers are systematically rejected. We offer an explanation of this behavior using the 'indirect evolutionary approach' which is based on the assumption that players behave rationally for given preferences but that their preferences change through an evolutionary process. We prove that despite anonymous interaction a preference for punishing unfair offers is an evolutionarily successful strategy if players interact in small groups. This leads players to split the resource equally almost always. However, the equal split is not due to 'true fairness' (or 'altruism') but is entirely caused by the (justified) fear that unfair offers might be rejected.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • S. Huck & J. Oechssler, 1996. "The Indirect Evolutionary Approach To Explaining Fair Allocations," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1996,13, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb373:199613

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Samuelson, L., 1989. "Evolutionnary Stability In Asymmetric Games," Papers 11-8-2, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
    2. Steffen Huck & Georg Kirchsteiger & Jörg Oechssler, 2005. "Learning to like what you have - explaining the endowment effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(505), pages 689-702, July.
    3. Vesna Prasnikar & Alvin E. Roth, 1992. "Considerations of Fairness and Strategy: Experimental Data from Sequential Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 865-888.
    4. Bolton, Gary E, 1991. "A Comparative Model of Bargaining: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1096-1136, December.
    5. Noldeke Georg & Samuelson Larry, 1993. "An Evolutionary Analysis of Backward and Forward Induction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 425-454, July.
    6. Thaler, Richard H, 1988. "The Ultimatum Game," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 195-206, Fall.
    7. Samuelson, Larry & Zhang, Jianbo, 1992. "Evolutionary stability in asymmetric games," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 363-391, August.
    8. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
    9. Noldeke Georg & Samuelson Larry, 1993. "An Evolutionary Analysis of Backward and Forward Induction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 425-454, July.
    10. Cressman, R. & Schlag, K. H., 1998. "The Dynamic (In)Stability of Backwards Induction," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 260-285, December.
    11. Bolton Gary E. & Zwick Rami, 1995. "Anonymity versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-121, July.
    12. Friedman, Daniel, 1991. "Evolutionary Games in Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 637-666, May.
    13. Becker, Gary S, 1976. "Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 817-826, September.
    14. Harrison, Glenn W & McCabe, Kevin A, 1996. "Expectations and Fairness in a Simple Bargaining Experiment," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 25(3), pages 303-327.
    15. Kirchsteiger, Georg, 1994. "The role of envy in ultimatum games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 373-389, December.
    16. Gale, John & Binmore, Kenneth G. & Samuelson, Larry, 1995. "Learning to be imperfect: The ultimatum game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 56-90.
    17. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb373:199613. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.