Deception and Retribution in Repeated Ultimatum Bargaining

Terry L. Boles, Rachel T.A. Croson, J. Keith Murnighan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the dynamics of deception and retribution in repeated ultimatum bargaining. Anonymous dyads exchanged messages and offers in a series of four ultimatum bargaining games that had prospects for relatively large monetary outcomes. Variations in each party's knowledge of the other's resources and alternatives created opportunities for deception. Revelation of prior unknowns exposed deceptions and created opportunities for retribution in subsequent interactions. Results showed that although proposers and responders chose deceptive strategies almost equally, proposers told more outright lies. Both were more deceptive when their private information was never revealed, and proposers were most deceptive when their potential profits were largest. Revelation of proposers' lies had little effect on their subsequent behavior even though responders rejected their offers more than similar offers from truthful proposers or proposers whose prior deceit was never revealed. The discussion and conclusions address the dynamics of deception and retribution in repeated bargaining interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-259
Number of pages25
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2000
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was generously funded by a grant from the Dispute Resolution Research Center at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, and by NSF Grant SES 98-76079-001 awarded to the second author. We acknowledge early contributions to the design of this experiment by members of the Junior Faculty Workshop in the Conflict Management Division at the 1995 Academy of Management meetings in Vancouver, BC. They included Michelle Buck, Rodney Lim, David Messick, and Rob Robinson. We also thank Roy Lewicki, the participants at the Organizational Behavior Conference at Wharton in November 1998, and at the DRRC symposium at Kellogg Graduate School of Management in May 1999, for their helpful comments. Reviewer comments from the submission of this paper to the 1999 International Association of Conflict Management and Academy of Management Conferences were also helpful in focusing the paper, as were Brian McNatt on the data collection and Huy Lee on the coding. We are also indebted to two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the paper.


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