...The ability to negotiate the two kinds of games in a way that maximizes one’s own interests — parsimonious in the Dictator Game, just generous enough in the Ultimatum Game — is sometimes used as a measure of what researchers call “Machiavellian intelligence,” the ability to navigate social groups profitably.
As Watts points out, players in these kinds of games, regardless of their cultural background, have a hard time explaining why they have the particular sets of preferences they have: They have internalized their rules of the game without ever quite being conscious of them.
Liberals and conservatives do not agree on much, but we often agree on this: The people in the opposite camp often seem like they come from another country, from another society and culture altogether. Conservatives in New York City or on the campus of Bryn Mawr College may feel like they have been parachuted into an alien and possibly hostile environment, and no doubt liberals feel like that when their magazine editors send them on National Review cruises. It may be the case that Red America and Blue America really are separate societies, at least on some micro-cultural level.
Such studies as have been done on the relationship between the Ultimatum Game and political preferences have been inconclusive, which is disappointing. There are a few tantalizing little bits: High levels of Machiavellian intelligence have been associated with “right-wing” economic preferences (which of course are more accurately known as “liberal” economic preferences outside our own perversely up-is-down political discourse), while progressive types have been found to be relatively generous in the Dictator Game but not in the Ultimatum Game, which comports nicely with the conservative hunch that liberals are most generous when the other guy doesn’t really have any say in the matter...