Appreciative Joy Meditation Enhances Acceptance of Unfair Offer in Ultimatum Game

Gary Ting Tat NG, Derek Chun Kiu LAI, Xianglong ZENG, Tian Po OEI

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical studies have shown that the Four Immeasurables Meditations (FIM) can enhance compassionate decisions towards others, such as helping victims being treated unfairly in economic games. However, research investigating how FIM affects individuals’ decisions when they themselves are victims is sparse. Thus, the current study utilized a randomized trial to scrutinize the causal influence of practicing FIM on people’s reactions towards unfairness that is directed at them.

Meditation novices (N = 135) were randomly assigned to practice either a brief Appreciative Joy Meditation (AJM) or a matched neutral visualization. They then took part in the Ultimatum Game where they first acted as a proposer to propose an offer to another person, then acted as a responder to decide whether to accept a set of offers.

The AJM group accepted significantly more unfair offers, but neither proposed a higher offer to others nor changed the perception of fairness, as compared with the neutral visualization control group. Furthermore, self-reported emotional changes during meditation practice could not predict behavior in the Ultimatum Game, but the Self-Transcendence dimension of the Appreciative Joy Scale, which reflects one’s ability to feel happy for others when one is in an inferior situation, predicted higher acceptance rate of unfair offers.

This study provided a piece of causal evidence that a brief practice of AJM can make people more tolerable to unfairness directed against them. Broadly, this study also inspired more investigations on attitudes towards people in superior situations in future studies on FIM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1673-1683
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Early online date18 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

The work described in this paper was supported by the General Research Fund from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (Project No.: CUHK14605416).

This study was approved by IRB of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  • Appreciative Joy
  • Buddhism
  • Compassion
  • Decision-making
  • Four Immeasurables Meditations
  • Loving-Kindness
  • Ultimatum Game


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