Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 579–603 | Cite as

Reciprocity—an indirect evolutionary analysis

  • Siegfried K. BerninghausEmail author
  • Christian Korth
  • Stefan Napel
Regular Article


This paper investigates agents who face a stylized pecuniary ‘game of life’ comprising the ultimatum game and the dictator game. Utility may but need not be attached to equity and reciprocity, as formalized by Falk and Fischbacher (Games Econom Behav, 54(2): 293–315, 2006) but, critically, this social component of preferences cannot be conditioned on whether an ultimatum or a dictator game is played. Evolutionary fitness of agents is determined solely by material success. Under these conditions, a strong preference for reciprocity, but little interest in equity as such evolves. Possible exogenous constraints that link reciprocity and equity concerns imply long-run levels of both which depend on the relative frequency of ultimatum vs. dictator interaction in agents’ multi-game environment.


Reciprocity Evolutionary stability Fairness 

JEL Classification

C78 C90 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Siegfried K. Berninghaus
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian Korth
    • 2
  • Stefan Napel
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Economics and Business EngineeringUniversity of KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.HamburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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