Study sheds light on origins of human fairness
Posted on January 29, 2013
In an interesting follow to last week’s post on the question of whether humans are uniquely violent (the answer: probably not), I have just come across a new study which explores the question of whether humans are uniquely fair (the answer: absolutely not).
Here is the abstract:
Is the sense of fairness uniquely human? Human reactions to reward division are often studied by means of the ultimatum game, in which both partners need to agree on a distribution for both to receive rewards. Humans typically offer generous portions of the reward to their partner, a tendency our close primate relatives have thus far failed to show in experiments. Here we tested chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and human children on a modified ultimatum game. One individual chose between two tokens that, with their partner’s cooperation, could be exchanged for rewards. One token offered equal rewards to both players, whereas the other token favored the chooser. Both apes and children responded like humans typically do. If their partner’s cooperation was required, they split the rewards equally. However, with passive partners—a situation akin to the so-called dictator game—they preferred the selfish option. Thus, humans and chimpanzees show similar preferences regarding reward division, suggesting a long evolutionary history to the human sense of fairness.
You read some news coverage of the study here.