Heritability of ultimatum game responder behavior

Björn Wallace, David Cesarini, Paul Lichtenstein, Magnus Johannesson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Experimental evidence suggests that many people are willing to deviate from materially maximizing strategies to punish unfair behavior. Even though little is known about the origins of such fairness preferences, it has been suggested that they have deep evolutionary roots and that they are crucial for maintaining and understanding cooperation among non-kin. Here we report the results of an ultimatum game, played for real monetary stakes, using twins recruited from the population-based Swedish Twin Registry as our subject pool. Employing standard structural equation modeling techniques, we estimate that >40% of the variation in subjects' rejection behavior is explained by additive genetic effects. Our estimates also suggest a very modest role for common environment as a source of phenotypic variation. Based on these findings, we argue that any attempt to explain observed ultimatum bargaining game behavior that ignores this genetic influence is incomplete.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)15631-15634
    Number of pages4
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number40
    StatePublished - Oct 2 2007


    • Cooperation
    • Experimental economics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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