When Rationality and Fairness Conflict: The Role of Cognitive-Control in the Ultimatum Game

22 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2011 Last revised: 27 Sep 2011

See all articles by Eliran Halali

Eliran Halali

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Psychology

Yoella Bereby-Meyer

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Nachshon Meiran

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - Department of Psychology

Date Written: June 21, 2011

Abstract

The ultimatum game models social exchange in situations in which the rational motive to maximize gains conflicts with fairness considerations. Using two independent behavioral measurements, the authors tested two contradicting predictions: that the preference for fairness is a deliberative cognitive-controlled act or that it is an automatic act. In Experiment 1, participants whose cognitive-control resources were depleted rejected more unfair offers compared to control participants. In Experiment 2, it took longer to accept than to reject unfair offers. These results suggest that fairness considerations operate more automatically than rational considerations, and that the latter depend on the availability of limited cognitive control resources.

Keywords: decision-making, social preferences, fairness, economic self-interest, ultimatum-game, cognitive-control, ego-depletion, reaction time

JEL Classification: A12, A13, C70, C71, C72, C78

Suggested Citation

Halali, Eliran and Bereby-Meyer, Yoella and Meiran, Nachshon, When Rationality and Fairness Conflict: The Role of Cognitive-Control in the Ultimatum Game (June 21, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1868852 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1868852

Eliran Halali (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Israel
972-3-531-8717 (Phone)

Yoella Bereby-Meyer

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

Department of Psychology
Beer--Sheva, 84105
Israel

Nachshon Meiran

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - Department of Psychology ( email )

Beer-Sheva, 84105
Israel

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