Do sex and age affect strategic behavior and inequity aversion in children?

Nereida Bueno-Guerra*, David Leiva, Montserrat Colell, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The ultimatum game is commonly used to explore fairness in adults in bargaining situations. Although the changes in responses that occur during development have been investigated in children, the results have been mixed. Whereas some studies show that proposers offer more when they grow older, others indicate the opposite. Moreover, these studies are outcome-based and leave intentions out of the scene, although intentions play a relevant role in daily life. The mini-ultimatum game offers the opportunity to test both outcomes and intentions, but one major obstacle for accurately pinpointing developmental transitions in strategic behavior and inequity aversion so far has been the multiple confounds that have plagued previous studies, including different methods, small sample sizes, and reduced age differences. We administered an anonymous direct-method one-shot mini-ultimatum game to 478 6- and 10-year-old children. Strategic behavior was present at 10 years of age; older participants matched more accurately what responders would accept than younger participants. However, this was true only for older girls. No sex differences were detected in younger children. No age group seemed to consider the proposer's intentions given that the rejections of the default option were not significant across conditions. Both disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversions were present in 6-year-olds. However, older children exhibited significantly more disadvantageous inequity aversion than younger children. This contrast made the pattern of rejection of 6-year-olds look more similar to the pattern of rejection found in adults. No sex differences were found in responders’ behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-300
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Children
  • Fairness
  • Inequity aversion
  • Sex
  • Strategic behavior
  • Ultimatum game


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