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Norms and self-interest in ultimatum bargaining: the prince's prudence

Author: Meyer, Heinz-Dieter INSEAD Area: Organisational BehaviourIn: Journal of Economic Psychology, no. 13, June 1992 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 215-232.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask the Library for this articleAbstract: While recent ultimatum bargaining research has made important progress in analyzing the role of bargaining context on rational choice under ultimatum conditions, the influence of political or social norms on bargainers' choice has received little attention. This paper uses an index of ‘Machiavellism’ to assess bargainers' propensity to engage in self-interest seeking with or without guile under two different types of ultimatum conditions. The results suggest that bargainers' norms about opportunism as well as the specific parameters of the bargaining situation affect recipient responses in the ultimatum bargaining scenario. Subjects with pronounced Machiavellian conceptions of reality are more likely to accept one-sided ultimatums when the bargaining conditions force a one-shot accept/reject decision (strong ultimatum conditions). This is not true for conditions of repeated play (weak ultimatum conditions) where both ‘high and low Machs’ resist exploitation by the allocator. The results' implications for the debate on opportunistic norm enactment are discussed.
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While recent ultimatum bargaining research has made important progress in analyzing the role of bargaining context on rational choice under ultimatum conditions, the influence of political or social norms on bargainers' choice has received little attention. This paper uses an index of ‘Machiavellism’ to assess bargainers' propensity to engage in self-interest seeking with or without guile under two different types of ultimatum conditions. The results suggest that bargainers' norms about opportunism as well as the specific parameters of the bargaining situation affect recipient responses in the ultimatum bargaining scenario. Subjects with pronounced Machiavellian conceptions of reality are more likely to accept one-sided ultimatums when the bargaining conditions force a one-shot accept/reject decision (strong ultimatum conditions). This is not true for conditions of repeated play (weak ultimatum conditions) where both ‘high and low Machs’ resist exploitation by the allocator. The results' implications for the debate on opportunistic norm enactment are discussed.

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