Machiguenga Ultimatum

This was posted from the Freakonomics blog.  It’s an article about a psychologist from UBC who presented the classic Ultimatum game to the Machiguenga, an indigenous people from Peru.  The two-player game involves the first player being given a sum of money to share with a second player.  The first player makes an offer of how much to share to the second, who either accepts or rejects the deal.  If the second player were to reject it, both players don’t get any money.

Previous studies on this game with Western people have seen the first player offering, on average, close to half of the money given to him.  The second player usually rejected the offer if it was too low.  The Machiguenga, however, found the practice of the first player offering a large portion of the money strange, and the second player rejecting any amount of money from the first player even stranger.

This article caught my eye because of an autobiography I read growing up called “It’s a Jungle Out There” by Ron Snell, which chronicles his life growing up as the son of Wycliffe Bible translators working with the Machiguenga.  It’s a well-written story choc-full of crazy jungle adventures, often extremely humorous.


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