Ultimatums and Bias – Tom

This week I am going to dive right into another study I have read recently. I found it to be an interesting study and was much more align with my overall focus than the study I talked about last week. The study is called The Price of Racial Bias: Intergroup Negotiations in the Ultimatum Game. The purpose of the study was to see if racial stereotypes of Black Americans would affect perceptions in financial negotiations.

The study uses a common game theory game called the Ultimatum game as it’s basis. The game is extremely simplistic. It starts by the first player offering the other player a percentage of some predetermined sum of money. Then the second player can either accept or reject the offer. If they accept, then the money is handed out as the first player choose, otherwise nobody gets anything. That is literally it. For the one shot (only player once) version of the game, there is a rational answer, to always take what the other player offers as long as it is greater than zero. Which makes sense, since when it is a choice between zero and something, no matter how small it may be, something is always going to be larger. However, of course, humans are not rational, which is why this can be an interesting game to use in a study. For example, in this study respondents would reject offers less than twenty percent around half of the time.
One other critical detail was that in this study all of the participants were always the second player or the responder. The participant would be shown the photo of the offerer, and then told the offer on the table. Then they had to quickly respond with whether they would accept or reject the offer. This was then repeated multiple times so that each participant would create a large sample size of each race and each offer size. The findings were pretty much what you might expect, “participants accepted more offers and lower offer amounts from White proposers than from Black proposers.” This was true not only for white participants but non-white participants as well.

I also learned a few lessons on how to conduct studies. First off was the usefulness of introducing expediency. Forcing the participants to make decisions quickly could cause their decisions to be more reactionary and influenced by implicit bias. Another thing the researchers included was a short quiz to verify that the participants fully understood the rules of the game. This would allow me to get rid of stray data points created by participants who were confused or didn’t pay attention. The last thing I noted was a modeling method called analysis of variance. This would make it possible for me to compare multiple variables to see which differences did and did not have an effect. If I wanted to look at multiple forms of bias and their severity, this would most likely be critical to my analysis.

Thanks for reading.


For those curious to learn more about the study and its findings:


Image source:


2 thoughts on “Ultimatums and Bias – Tom

  1. dexcoengilbert

    It is interesting how the study was conducted around racial bias. Are there other biases that a similar study could help illuminate? Or is race the easiest because it is physically obvious in a photo?

  2. kevinwang11

    I am actually amazed by the fact that there is a study that relates racial bias to game theory. It seems that you are very optimistic about how “analysis of variance” can assist your research. Could you elaborate more on how this method analysis relates to your study of game theory and implicit bias?


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