The influence of self-talk in Ultimatum and Dictator Games: What you say to yourself matters! An experimental study on the effects of self-talk on negative emotions and fair bargaining behavior
MetadataShow full item record
This study investigates to what extent self-talk as a cognitive strategy initiates fair behavior during Ultimatum and Dictator bargaining interactions, as well as to what extent it influences the emotional state of individuals who are treated unfairly. This study serves as a follow-up experiment to a previous study by Frey et al. (2017), in which this question was addressed by applying a self-talk manipulation to both proposers and responders in an Ultimatum Game (UG). In the UG, the proposer must decide how to divide a sum of money between him and the responder. The responder is given the option to accept or reject the offer. If the responder rejects the offer, both players get nothing. The current study applies the same manipulation in a Dictator Game (DG) in which, in contrast to the UG, responders cannot reject unfair offers. The three types of self-talk that were compared are self-focused (focusing on one’s own interests), other-focused (focusing on the opponent’s interests), and neutral, task-unrelated self-talk. By comparing the proposing behavior in the DG and the UG, the current study aimed to clarify the motives of proposers who behave fairly, and what role self-talk plays in this regard. Also, the comparison allowed examination of the effects of self-talk on responders' emotions while ruling out the possibility that rejection of unfair offers could function as emotion regulation. In sum, the results suggest that self-talk affects both behavior and emotions in UGs and DGs. However, not all self-talk types used in the experiment appeared to be suitable to regulate emotions. The results show that neutral self-talk down-regulated negative emotions in the UG, but up-regulated negative emotions in the DG. This suggests that self-talk which makes one think about an unfair situation only has a positive effect on one’s emotions if there is a possibility to do something about it. Furthermore, the results show that self-talk which induces a focus on the other player led to fairer proposing behavior in both the UG and the DG. This finding suggests that taking one’s opponent’s interests into account increases one’s concern for fairness and that fair behavior in the UG is thus not solely driven by strategic motives, but also by altruism. This study shows again the power of self-talk and the importance of further research into its mechanisms. Implications of the findings and directions for future research will be discussed.