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Rational maximizing by humans (Homo sapiens) in an ultimatum game

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In the human mini-ultimatum game, a proposer splits a sum of money with a responder. If the responder accepts, both are paid. If not, neither is paid. Typically, responders reject inequitable distributions, favoring punishing over maximizing. In Jensen et al.’s (Science 318:107–109, 2007) adaptation with apes, a proposer selects between two distributions of raisins. Despite inequitable offers, responders often accept, thereby maximizing. The rejection response differs between the human and ape versions of this game. For humans, rejection is instantaneous; for apes, it requires 1 min of inaction. We replicate Jensen et al.’s procedure in humans with money. When waiting 1 min to reject, humans favor punishing over maximizing; however, when rejection requires 5 min of inaction, humans, like apes, maximize. If species differences in time horizons are accommodated, Jensen et al.’s ape data are reproducible in humans.

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Correspondence to Alan Silberberg.

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Smith, P., Silberberg, A. Rational maximizing by humans (Homo sapiens) in an ultimatum game. Anim Cogn 13, 671–677 (2010).

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