Dictators and Ultimatums in an Egalitarian Society of Hunter–Gatherers: The Hadza of Tanzania

Frank Marlowe

in Foundations of Human Sociality

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199262052
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601637 | DOI:
 Dictators and Ultimatums in an Egalitarian Society of Hunter–Gatherers: The Hadza of Tanzania

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It has often been suggested that the foundation for much human cooperation is the widespread food sharing observed among hunter–gatherers. To investigate this proposition, the study reported here enlisted one of the few remaining societies of active nomadic hunter–gatherers – the Hadza of Tanzania (who are one of the most egalitarian societies in the ethnographic literature) – to play two related games: the Ultimatum Game and the Dictator Game. The characteristics of the study population are first described, and then the methods used to conduct the games are outlined and the results presented and analysed in terms of six variables (age, gender, comprehension, numbers of siblings and children, and camp population/size). The Hadza made lower offers in both games than are typical of complex societies, and the offers were lower in small camps than larger ones; these findings contrast with the strong Hadza sharing ethic. Possible interpretations are discussed; these include a combination of greater fear of punishment (for not sharing) in larger camps and a greater desire to escape from constant sharing in small camps, and three other explanations that have been proposed by evolutionary anthropologists for widespread food sharing – tolerated scrounging, delayed reciprocity, and costly signalling.

Keywords: camp size; costly signalling; delayed reciprocity; Dictator Game; egalitarian societies; fear of punishment; food sharing; Hadza; human cooperation; hunter–gatherers; Tanzania; tolerated scrounging; Ultimatum Game

Chapter.  7909 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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