These lesson materials introduce students to issues of fairness and various interpretations of it. Reflecting on results of a cross-cultural experiment with children, students discuss how we can use our understandings to create a more fair world.
Game theory: Ultimatum and Dictator game
A set of behavioral experiments across cultures that explore the human sense of fairness.
These lesson materials introduce students to game theory as well as two concrete methods, the ultimatum game and the dictator game. The terms and rules of these games are intended to reflect the problem of distributing resources within a group. In both games, one player receives a sum of money and then has to decide if he/she wants to give some of the money to an unknown (anonymous) second person. The first player can give whatever he wants, or nothing. In the Dictator game, Player 2 has a passive role, and simply has to accept the offered amount. In the Ultimatum game, however, the second player must decide whether he accepts the money offered to him, or rejects it. If he rejects, both players will receive nothing.
Behavioral scientists play these games with adult people in different cultures, as well as with children and even with other animal species, in order to explore human and other animals’ altruistic behaviors, sense of fairness, as well as proximate and ultimate causes of these behaviors. These experiments also let students reflect on the nature of human altruism, sense of fairness, learned social norms, and their variation among individuals and cultures. They point to the reason why perceived fair distribution of resources, costs and benefits is important for the sustainability of a community.
- Teaching material type Experiment, Full lesson plan, Payoff Matrix
- Subject Areas Ethics, Social Studies, Social-Emotional Learning
- Learning Goals Cooperation Competency, Evaluation Competency, Evolutionary Thinking, Intercultural Competence
- Suitable Grade Levels 6-8, 9-12
- Concepts Cooperation, Empathy, Fairness, Moral cognition, Social norms
- Content Anchors Cross-species, Cultural diversity, Games, Our Mind
Author: Susan Hanisch
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With these teaching materials, students can be introduced to game theory in general, as well as a concrete method, the public goods game. The conditions and rules of the public goods game reflect the challenge of a group to maintain common resources.