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Paper: Chimpanzees Are Rational Maximizers in an Ultimatum Game

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    Science 5 October 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5847, pp. 107 - 109 DOI: 10.1126/science.1145850 Chimpanzees Are Rational Maximizers in an Ultimatum Game Keith Jensen,*
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 5, 2007
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      Science 5 October 2007:
      Vol. 318. no. 5847, pp. 107 - 109
      DOI: 10.1126/science.1145850

       

      Chimpanzees Are Rational Maximizers in an Ultimatum Game

      Keith Jensen,* Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

      Traditional models of economic decision-making assume that people are self-interested rational maximizers. Empirical research has demonstrated, however, that people will take into account the interests of others and are sensitive to norms of cooperation and fairness. In one of the most robust tests of this finding, the ultimatum game, individuals will reject a proposed division of a monetary windfall, at a cost to themselves, if they perceive it as unfair. Here we show that in an ultimatum game, humans' closest living relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), are rational maximizers and are not sensitive to fairness. These results support the hypothesis that other-regarding preferences and aversion to inequitable outcomes, which play key roles in human social organization, distinguish us from our closest living relatives.

      Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103, Leipzig, Germany.

      Source: Science
      http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/318/5847/107?etoc

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      Robert Karl Stonjek

    • Mike Tintner
      Chimpanzees Are Rational Maximizers in an Ultimatum Game Keith Jensen,* Josep Call, Michael Tomasello Traditional models of economic decision-making assume
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 6, 2007
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        Chimpanzees Are Rational Maximizers in an Ultimatum Game Keith
        Jensen,* Josep Call, Michael Tomasello
        Traditional models of economic decision-making assume that people are
        self-interested rational maximizers. Empirical research has
        demonstrated, however, that people will take into account the interests
        of others and are sensitive to norms of cooperation and fairness.
         
        The great problem here is with this concept of "self-interested." I think we really need to distinguish between short-term and long-term self-interest.(Is anyone properly doing this?). In the short term, it may be in my self's interest,  to screw everyone. In the medium to long term, it is in my self's interest to be considerate to others, and establish balanced exchanges with other individuals and society - that way, I stand to gain much more. (The most basic principle here is probably Adam Smith's division of labour - we gain vastly more by working with than in isolation from others).  To establish this fully, though, one needs more than the simplistic study of people playing games in labs - on which, or that's my impression, most science in this area currently relies.
         
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