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Rejection of unfair offers in the ultimatum game is no evidence of strong reciprocity.

OPEN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | 29 Nov 2012

T Yamagishi, Y Horita, N Mifune, H Hashimoto, Y Li, M Shinada, A Miura, K Inukai, H Takagishi and D Simunovic
Abstract
The strong reciprocity model of the evolution of human cooperation has gained some acceptance, partly on the basis of support from experimental findings. The observation that unfair offers in the ultimatum game are frequently rejected constitutes an important piece of the experimental evidence for strong reciprocity. In the present study, we have challenged the idea that the rejection response in the ultimatum game provides evidence of the assumption held by strong reciprocity theorists that negative reciprocity observed in the ultimatum game is inseparably related to positive reciprocity as the two sides of a preference for fairness. The prediction of an inseparable relationship between positive and negative reciprocity was rejected on the basis of the results of a series of experiments that we conducted using the ultimatum game, the dictator game, the trust game, and the prisoner’s dilemma game. We did not find any correlation between the participants' tendencies to reject unfair offers in the ultimatum game and their tendencies to exhibit various prosocial behaviors in the other games, including their inclinations to positively reciprocate in the trust game. The participants' responses to postexperimental questions add support to the view that the rejection of unfair offers in the ultimatum game is a tacit strategy for avoiding the imposition of an inferior status.
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The Evolution of Cooperation, Reciprocity, Hypothesis, Experimental economics, Ultimatum game, Dictator game, Prisoner's dilemma, Game theory
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