Aspiration-based evolutionary dynamics have recently been used to model the evolution of fair play in the ultimatum game showing that incredible threats to reject low offers persist in equilibrium. We focus on two extensions of this analysis: we experimentally test whether assumptions about agent motivations (aspiration levels) and the structure of the game (binary strategy space) reflect actual play, and we examine the problematic assumption embedded in the standard replicator dynamic that unhappy agents who switch strategies may return to a rejected strategy without exploring other options. We find that the resulting "no switchback" dynamic predicts the evolution of play better than the standard dynamic and that aspirations are a significant motivator for our participants. In the process, we also construct and analyze a variant of the ultimatum game in which players can adopt conditional (on their induced aspirations) stategies.


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