Asymmetric social distance effects in the ultimatum game


We argue that in the ultimatum game the effects of altruistic behavior and reciprocity vary more in the spectrum of positively compared to negatively-valenced relationships. Thus, we suggest that social distance effects are asymmetric. Our experimental results support this hypothesis; in the region of positively-valenced relationships, the proposers increase the percentage they offer as relationship quality increases more drastically compared to when the relationship is negatively-valenced, in which case they appear more invariant to relationship effects. Also, by eliciting a minimum share which the responder is willing to accept out of the total sum, we provide clearer results on the social distance and stakes effects on the latter’s behavior. We find a negative effect of relationship quality on the minimum acceptable share. This contradicts a strand of the literature which suggests that closer-“in-group” individuals may be punished more severely, so that cooperation in a group is maintained.

Review of Behavioral Economics, 6(2): 159-192
Orestis Vravosinos
Orestis Vravosinos
PhD student in Economics