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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27107. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027107. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Cognitive control and individual differences in economic ultimatum decision-making.

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, University of Toulouse, Toulouse, France.


Much publicity has been given to the fact that people's economic decisions often deviate from the rational predictions of standard economic models. In the classic ultimatum game, for example, most people turn down financial gains by rejecting unequal monetary splits. The present study points to neglected individual differences in this debate. After participants played the ultimatum game we tested for individual differences in cognitive control capacity of the most and least economic responders. The key finding was that people who were higher in cognitive control, as measured by behavioral (Go/No-Go performance) and neural (No-Go N2 amplitude) markers, did tend to behave more in line with the standard models and showed increased acceptance of unequal splits. Hence, the cognitively highest scoring decision-makers were more likely to maximize their monetary payoffs and adhere to the standard economic predictions. Findings question popular claims with respect to the rejection of standard economic models and the irrationality of human economic decision-making.

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