The rich are easily offended by unfairness: Wealth triggers spiteful rejection of unfair offers

Yi Ding, Junhui Wu, Tingting Ji, Xu Chen*, Paul A.M. Van Lange

*Corresponding author for this work

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What does it do to people when they are rich or poor? Do they differ in their responses to unfair treatment? For example, are the wealthy more or less likely to accept an unfair offer in an ultimatum game where it is costly to reject an unfair offer? How about when it is not costly to reject an unfair offer? In the present research, we measured self-reported wealth (i.e., family income, Studies 1–3) and manipulated wealth using a “lucky draw” game (Studies 2 and 3) to examine how wealth affects responses to unfairness in an ultimatum game (Studies 1–3) and a new game called the cost-free rejection game (CFRG, Study 3). Across three studies, we found that wealthy people rejected an unfair offer (i.e., being offered 20% while the other kept 80% of the endowment) more frequently than the less wealthy, and that this tendency to reject unfairness was mediated by their increased feelings of entitlement. This suggests that the wealthy, or even people who temporarily perceive themselves to be wealthy, are more easily offended by unfairness than the less wealthy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Early online date5 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: Fellowship from China Scholarship Council (201506990038) awarded to Yi Ding.

FundersFunder number
China Scholarship Council201506990038


    • Cost
    • Cost-free rejection game
    • Entitlement
    • Ultimatum game
    • Unfairness
    • Wealth


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