Unfairness, anger, and spite: Emotional rejections of ultimatum offers

Madan M. Pillutla, J. Keith Murnighan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

612 Scopus citations


This paper addresses an anomaly in experimental economics, the rejection of ultimatum offers, and uses a psychological explanation for this essentially economic event. The wounded pride/spite model predicts that informed, knowledgeable respondents may react to small ultimatum offers by perceiving them as unfair, feeling anger, and acting spitefully. Results of a large scale experiment support the model, showing that rejections were most frequent when respondents could evaluate the fairness of their offers and attribute responsibility to offerers. In addition, anger was a better explanation of the rejections than perceptions that the offers were unfair. The discussion addresses the rarely studied but frequently observed emotions that negotiations provoke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-224
Number of pages17
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Unfairness, anger, and spite: Emotional rejections of ultimatum offers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this