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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 169, Issue 4, pp 564–568 | Cite as

Affective state and decision-making in the Ultimatum Game

  • Mascha van ’t WoutEmail author
  • René S. Kahn
  • Alan G. Sanfey
  • André Aleman
Research Note

Abstract

The emerging field of neuroeconomics has provided evidence that emotional as well as cognitive processes may contribute to economic decision-making. Indeed, activation of the anterior insula, a brain area involved in emotional processing, has been shown to predict decision-making in the Ultimatum Game. However, as the insula has also been implicated in other brain functions, converging evidence on the role of emotion in the Ultimatum Game is needed. In the present study, 30 healthy undergraduate students played the Ultimatum Game while their skin conductance responses were measured as an autonomic index of affective state. The results revealed that skin conductance activity was higher for unfair offers and was associated with the rejection of unfair offers in the Ultimatum Game. Interestingly, this pattern was only observed for offers proposed by human conspecifics, but not for offers generated by computers. This provides direct support for economic models that acknowledge the role of emotional brain systems in everyday decision-making.

Keywords

Decision-making Emotion Arousal Skin conductance Ultimatum Game Social utility 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank T. Rietkerk for help with data collection. M. van ’t Wout and A. Aleman were supported by a VernieuwingsImpuls grant (no 016.026.027) from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mascha van ’t Wout
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • René S. Kahn
    • 2
  • Alan G. Sanfey
    • 3
  • André Aleman
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychonomics, Helmholtz InstituteUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of NeuroscienceUniversity Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.BCN NeuroImaging CenterUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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