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
Date Written: June 21, 2011
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: Suggested Citation