Expectations and fairness in a modified Ultimatum game

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Non-cooperative game theory predicts that Allocators in Ultimatum games will take almost all the 'cake'. Experimental evidence is in sharp contrast with this prediction, as several experiments show that the modal offer is the even split. Interpretations of such results usually make reference to two competing explanations. One invokes the notion of fairness; the second argues that in the absence of common knowledge of the rationality and beliefs of Recipients, Allocators raise their offers because they expect that non-satisfactory offers might be rejected. Although several experiments have been successful in inducing more selfish offers by manipulating the Allocators' expectations, they have done so predominantly by means of extrinsic manipulations that are not accounted for by game theory. The present study introduces a minor variation of the Ultimatum game by implanting a discounting factor, δ (0 ≤ δ ≤ 1), in the standard game. Whereas game theory is indifferent to this modification, experimental results from the modified game show that by continuously changing δ, it is possible to induce systematic changes in Allocators' and Recipients' behaviors and beliefs. These results are used to competitively test the fairness and expectations hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-554
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This researchw as supportedb y researchg rantSES 9107439f rom NSF. I wish to thankO rly Kloner and Irk Bach for their assistancien datac ollection and Yuval Samidf or his help in the dataa nalysisI. also wish to thankD avid Boninger,D avid V. BudescuF, aith Gleicher,D avid Messick, Sam Rackover, Larry Samuelsoann dtwo anonymourse viewerfso r theirh elpfulr emarks.


  • Bargaining
  • Expectations
  • Fairness
  • Ultimatum game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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