Do self-talk phrases affect behavior in ultimatum games?

Frey, V., De Mulder, H. N. M., Ter Bekke, M., Struiksma, M. E., Van Berkum, J. J. A., & Buskens, V. (2022). Do self-talk phrases affect behavior in ultimatum games? Mind & Society, 21, 89-119. doi:10.1007/s11299-022-00286-8.
The current study investigates whether self-talk phrases can influence behavior in Ultimatum Games. In our three self-talk treatments, participants were instructed to tell themselves (i) to keep their own interests in mind, (ii) to also think of the other person, or (iii) to take some time to contemplate their decision. We investigate how such so-called experimenter-determined strategic self-talk phrases affect behavior and emotions in comparison to a control treatment without instructed self-talk. The results demonstrate that other-focused self-talk can nudge proposers towards fair behavior, as offers were higher in this group than in the other conditions. For responders, self-talk tended to increase acceptance rates of unfair offers as compared to the condition without self-talk. This effect is significant for both other-focused and contemplation-inducing self-talk but not for self-focused self-talk. In the self-focused condition, responders were most dissatisfied with unfair offers. These findings suggest that use of self-talk can increase acceptance rates in responders, and that focusing on personal interests can undermine this effect as it negatively impacts the responders’ emotional experience. In sum, our study shows that strategic self-talk interventions can be used to affect behavior in bargaining situations.
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