On gamesmen and fair men: Explaining fairness in non-cooperative bargaining games

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Experiments on bargaining games have repeatedly shown that subjects fail to use backward induction, and that they only rarely make demands in accordance with the subgame perfect equilibrium. In a recent paper, we proposed an alternative model, termed ‘economic harmony’ in which we modified the individual’s utility by defining it as a function of the ratio between the actual and aspired pay-offs. We also abandoned the notion of equilibrium, in favour of a new notion of ‘harmony’, defined as the intersection of strategies, at which all players are equally satisfied. We showed that the proposed model yields excellent predictions of offers in the ultimatum game, and requests in the sequential common pool resource dilemma game. Strikingly, the predicted demand in the ultimatum game is equal to the famous Golden Ratio (approx. 0.62 of the entire pie). The same prediction was recently derived independently by Schuster (Schuster 2017. Sci. Rep. 7, 5642). In this paper, we extend the solution to bargaining games with alternating offers. We show that the derived solution predicts the opening demands reported in several experiments, on games with equal and unequal discount factors and game horizons. Our solution also predicts several unexplained findings, including the puzzling ‘disadvantageous counter-offers’, and the insensitivity of opening demands to variations in the players’ discount factors, and game horizon. Strikingly, we find that the predicted opening demand in the alternating offers game is also equal to the Golden Ratio.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171709
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors.


  • Alternating offers
  • Bargaining
  • Golden Ratio
  • Nash equilibrium
  • Subgame perfect equilibrium
  • Ultimatum game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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