OBJECTIVE: No study to date compared degrees of inequity aversion in economic decision-making in the ultimatum game between non-addictive and addictive reinforcers. The comparison is potentially important in neuroeconomics and reinforcement learning theory of addiction.
METHODS: We compared the degrees of inequity aversion in the ultimatum game between money and cigarettes in habitual smokers.
RESULTS: Smokers avoided inequity in the ultimatum game more dramatically for money than for cigarettes; i.e., there was a "domain effect" in decision-making in the ultimatum game.
CONCLUSIONS: Reward-processing neural activities in the brain for non-addictive and addictive reinforcers may be distinct and the insula activation due to cue-induced craving may conflict with unfair offer-induced insula activation. Future studies in neuroeconomics of addiction should employ game-theoretic decision tasks for elucidating reinforcement learning processes in dopaminergic neural circuits.