What kind of dictator are you?

Colonel Gaddafi

Colonel Gaddafi is a classic example of a selfish dictator taking as much as he can from his powerful position. How would you act if you were a dictator?

The dictator game

The dictator game is closely related to the ultimatum game. In the dictator game one player, the dictator, has an amount of money and can choose to give some of this, or nothing, to the other player. The second player has no choice but to take the offer.

Strictly this isn’t a game as one player’s strategy doesn’t depend on the other player’s strategy. Nonetheless it is interesting to see how people behave in experiments.

Logically the dictator should keep all the money for themselves and give nothing to the other player. But what happens in experiments?


Experiments give different results but on average about half of people keep all the money for themselves and about 5% split the money equally. The rest give a smaller amount to the other player.

There are a number of possible reasons why some people give away money. It might be because they feel it is right, they might not understand the game, or they might feel greedy if they take everything.

What would you do? Would you keep all the money for yourself?

Test your morals

There is an interesting website, Moral Experiment, which is running a version of the dictator game. You get your friends to subscribe and then you can either keep their subscriptions fees yourself, or give the money to charity (the site take a cut of all fees). Your friends will never know what you have chosen.

So far about 90% of the money has been given to charity. Which is very high compared to other dictator game experiments but as it is framed around donating to charity it is not surprising that the donation levels will be high.

Today’s takeaway: Not everyone is selfish. When you are trying to understand other people’s behavior you shouldn’t assume that they are.

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One Response to What kind of dictator are you?

  1. Dear Sirs,
    I am Afshin Haghighi, I am master of industrial engineering( systems management and productivity) in Iran. I like to study game theory Phd. please help me.

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