Fast to Forgive, Slow to Retaliate: Intuitive Responses in the Ultimatum Game Depend on the Degree of Unfairness
journal contributionposted on 20.07.2015, 11:21 by E. Ferguson, John Julian Maltby, P. A. Bibby, C. Lawrence
Evolutionary accounts have difficulty explaining why people cooperate with anonymous strangers they will never meet. Recently models, focusing on emotional processing, have been proposed as a potential explanation, with attention focusing on a dual systems approach based on system 1 (fast, intuitive, automatic, effortless, and emotional) and system 2 (slow, reflective, effortful, proactive and unemotional). Evidence shows that when cooperation is salient, people are fast (system 1) to cooperate, but with longer delays (system 2) they show greed. This is interpreted within the framework of the social heuristic hypothesis (SHH), whereby people overgeneralize potentially advantageous intuitively learnt and internalization social norms to 'atypical' situations. We extend this to explore intuitive reactions to unfairness by integrating the SHH with the 'fast to forgive, slow to anger' (FFSA) heuristic. This suggests that it is advantageous to be prosocial when facing uncertainty. We propose that whether or not someone intuitively shows prosociality (cooperation) or retaliation is moderated by the degree (certainty) of unfairness. People should intuitively cooperate when facing mild levels of unfairness (fast to forgive) but when given longer to decide about another's mild level of unfairness should retaliate (slow to anger). However, when facing severe levels of unfairness, the intuitive response is always retaliation. We test this using a series of one-shot ultimatum games and manipulate level of offer unfairness (50:50 60:40, 70:30, 80:20, 90:10) and enforced time delays prior to responding (1s, 2s, 8s, 15s). We also measure decision times to make responses after the time delays. The results show that when facing mildly unfair offers (60:40) people are fast (intuitive) to cooperate but with longer delays reject these mildly unfair offers: 'fast to forgive, and slow to retaliate'. However, for severely unfair offers (90:10) the intuitive and fast response is to always reject.