We explore the interaction between fairness attitudes and reference dependence both theoretically and experimentally. Our theory of fairness behavior under reference-dependent preferences in the context of ultimatum games, defines fairness in the utility domain and not in the domain of dollar payments. We test our model predictions using a within-subject design with ultimatum and dictator games involving gains and losses of varying amounts. Proposers indicated their offer in gain- and (neatly comparable) loss- games; responders indicated minimum acceptable gain and maximum acceptable loss. We find a significant generosity effect in the loss domain: on average, proposers bear the largest share of losses as if anticipating responders' call for a smaller share. In contrast, reference dependence hardly affects the outcome of dictator games -where responders have no veto right- though we detect a small but significant compassion effect, whereby dictators are on average somewhat more generous sharing losses than sharing gains.
Fairness loss domain ultimatum game dictator game referencedependent preferences social preferences