Fair is fair, or is it? Territorial triggers influence ultimatum game behaviour

Laura Cram, Adam Moore, Victor Olivieri, Felix Suessenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fairness perception, underpins the concept of societal solidarity and is central to regime cohesion, collective identity and popular legitimacy. The European Union faces challenges on all of these fronts. Perceptions of inter-group (un)fairness and of being ‘left behind’, for example, provided much of the momentum behind the UK Brexit decision. Fairness perception is not, however, an objectively reliable measure. In/out-group alignments, including race and even football team membership, have been shown experimentally to influence individuals’ behaviour in response to equally fair/unfair monetary offers, even when this behaviour is economically irrational. We develop an experimental task, using an adapted ultimatum game design, to examine how this dynamic plays out in the context of multi-level territorial identity systems, such as the EU, where no straightforward territorial in/out-group dynamic pertains. We discuss the implications of our findings for understanding complex social identity-effects in multi-level systems. We ask how our findings on differential perceptions of fairness might be built upon to help understand variable citizen perceptions of, for example, the Brexit process and of the outcomes secured by an individuals’ ‘own side’ in the negotiations and more generally in relation to psychological attachment to the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1233-1250
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date12 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2018


  • territorial identity
  • ultimatum game
  • Moral Foundations Theory
  • personality
  • fairness
  • national identity
  • in-group
  • Europen Union
  • morality


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