Social distance decreases responders' sensitivity to fairness in the ultimatum game

Hyunji Kim, Simone Schnall, Do Joon Yi, Mathew P. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Studies using the Ultimatum Game have shown that participants reject unfair offers extended by another person although this incurs a financial cost. Previous research suggests that one possible explanation for this apparently selfdefeating response is that unfair offers involve strong negative responses that decrease the chances of responders accepting offers that would objectively constitute a net profit. We tested the hypothesis that one way of reducing responders' rejections of unfair offers is through increased psychological distance, so that participants move away from the concrete feeling of being unfairly treated. Social distance was manipulated by having participants play the Ultimatum Game either for themselves, or for another person. Compared to deciding for one's self or a close social contact, participants showed less sensitivity to fairness when deciding for a stranger, as indicated by fewer rejected unfair offers. We suggest that social distance helps people move beyond immediate fairness concerns in the Ultimatum Game.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-638
Number of pages7
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Sept

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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