Chimpanzees are rational maximizers in an ultimatum game

Keith Jensen*, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

291 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Traditional models of economic decision-making assume that people are self-interested rational maximizers. Empirical research has demonstrated, however, that people will take into account the interests of others and are sensitive to norms of cooperation and fairness. In one of the most robust tests of this finding, the ultimatum game, individuals will reject a proposed division of a monetary windfall, at a cost to themselves, if they perceive it as unfair. Here we show that in an ultimatum game, humans' closest living relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), are rational maximizers and are not sensitive to fairness. These results support the hypothesis that other-regarding preferences and aversion to inequitable outcomes, which play key roles in human social organization, distinguish us from our closest living relatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-109
Number of pages3
JournalScience
Volume318
Issue number5847
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2007

Keywords

  • ALTRUISTIC PUNISHMENT
  • GROUP MEMBERS
  • RECIPROCITY
  • EVOLUTION
  • COOPERATION
  • TOLERANCE
  • ECONOMICS
  • INEQUITY
  • FAIRNESS
  • CHILDREN

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