Community Structure, Mobility, and the Strength of Norms in an African Society: The Sangu of Tanzania

Richard McElreath

in Foundations of Human Sociality

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199262052
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601637 | DOI:
 Community Structure, Mobility, and the Strength of Norms in an African Society: The Sangu of Tanzania

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Ultimatum Game results are presented from an African society, the Sangu of the Usangu Plains southwest Tanzania, with substantial internal economic variation. The study involved two communities: a more sedentary and stable community of farmers from the agricultural areas of Utengule, and a more mobile and compositionally fluid community of agro‐pastoralists (individuals who sometimes farm but also derive a substantial amount of their income from livestock) from Ukwaheri. The Utengule community exhibited more rejections in the Ultimatum Game than the Ukwaheri community, although the two communities exhibited no differences in the distributions of offers made in the game, implying that they share an idealized norm for sharing (‘dividing equally’), but differ in their willingness or perception of the need to punish norm violations. Individual variables such as age and differences in the nature and duration (stability and longevity) of relationships among the two groups may explain some of the difference in offers and willingness to reject; an evaluation is also made of the possibility that differences in risk‐aversion may account for the differences in rejection rates. A method for describing and comparing the rejection rates of different populations is presented, and problems caused by the structure of the Ultimatum Game in the interpretation of data like these are discussed.

Keywords: age; agro‐pastoral community; internal economic variation; offers; punishment of norm violations; rejections; risk‐aversion; Sangu; sedentary agricultural community; sharing; stability of relationships; Tanzania; Ultimatum Game

Chapter.  6600 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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