To Be Perceived as Altruistic: Strategic Considerations That Support Fair Behavior in the Dictator Game

  • Hirofumi Hashimoto Department of Social Psychology, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, The University of Tokyo
  • Nobuhiro Mifune School of Management, Kochi University of Technology
  • Toshio Yamagishi Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University
Keywords: altruistic behavior, reputation, error management


We successfully replicated Dana, Cain, and Dawes’ study (2006) using a dictator game with an exit option with a Japanese sample. The exit option allowed the dictator to leave the recipient with nothing by paying a small fee, while also ensuring that the recipient never noticed that the dictator game was being played. If the dictator was motivated by fairness, or even self-interest, there would be no reason to choose the exit option. However, our study, as well as the original study, demonstrated that approximately 40% of participants chose the exit option. Based on these results, we argue that the altruistic behavior exhibited during the standard dictator game represents a default strategy for reputation management.
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