The ultimatum game is a workhorse for economics experiments.  Subject A has 100 dollars to split with Subject B.  A proposes a division and if B accepts then the division is carried out.  If B rejects then both parties get nothing.  In these experiments, A is surprisingly generous and B is surprisingly spiteful.  A Fine Theorem makes a good point:

…I’m sure someone has done this but I don’t have a cite, the “standard” instructions in ultimatum games seem to prime the results to a ridiculous degree. Imagine the following exercise. Give 100 dollars to a research subject (Mr. A). Afterwards, tell some other subject (Ms. B) that 100 dollars was given to Mr. A. Tell Mr. A that the other subject knows he was given the money, but don’t prime him to “share” or “offer a split” or anything similar. Later, tell Ms. B that she can, if she wishes, reverse the result and take the 100 dollars away from A – if she does so, had Mr. A happened to have given her some of the money, that would also be taken. I hope we can agree that if you did such an experiment, A would share no money and B would show no spite, as neither has been primed to see the 100 dollars as something that should have been shared in the first place. One doesn’t normally expect anonymous strangers to share their good fortune with you, surely. That is, feelings of spite, jealousy and fairness can be, and are, primed by researchers. I think this is worth keeping in mind when trying to apply the experimental results on ultimatum games to the real economy.

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