Current Psychology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 549–555 | Cite as

Physical Attractiveness, Altruism and Cooperation in an Ultimatum Game

  • Manpal Singh BhogalEmail author
  • Niall Galbraith
  • Ken Manktelow


Explaining cooperative tendencies through an evolutionary lens has been problematic for theorists. Traditional explanations derive from theories of reciprocity, biological markets, and more recently via partner choice and sexual selection. The sexual selection hypothesis has been tested within game-theoretic frameworks gaining empirical support in explaining the evolution of altruism. Males have been found to be more altruistic towards attractive females. However, previous research has predominantly adopted a design where participants are not engaging with ‘real people’. Instead, participants make decisions when viewing images or hypothetical scenarios without visual cues. The present study aimed to investigate the sexual selection hypothesis using a face-to-face game theoretic framework. One hundred and thirty-eight participants played a 2-round ultimatum game with chocolate coins as the monetary incentive. We find, that physical attractiveness had no influence on generosity and cooperation when participants play a face-to-face ultimatum game. Instead, proposers were fair when allocating stakes, offering an average of half the endowment to responders. This study refutes the link between the sexual selection hypothesis and generosity when playing economic games with real people. Fairness appeared to drive generosity and cooperation.


Game theory Ultimatum game Sexual selection hypothesis Fairness Generosity Altruism 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

There are no conflicts of interest. This research involved collecting data from human participants. Informed consent was taken from all participants who took part in this study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manpal Singh Bhogal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Niall Galbraith
    • 1
  • Ken Manktelow
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Education, Health and WellbeingUniversity of WolverhamptonWolverhamptonUK

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