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Exploring the Motivations for Punishment: Framing and Country-Level Effects

Bone, JE; McAuliffe, K; Raihani, NJ; (2016) Exploring the Motivations for Punishment: Framing and Country-Level Effects. PLOS ONE , 11 (8) 10.1371/journal.pone.0159769. Green open access

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Abstract

Identifying the motives underpinning punishment is crucial for understanding its evolved function. In principle, punishment of distributional inequality could be motivated by the desire to reciprocate losses ('revenge') or by the desire to reduce payoff asymmetries between the punisher and the target ('inequality aversion'). By separating these two possible motivations, recent work suggests that punishment is more likely to be motivated by disadvantageous inequality aversion than by a desire for revenge. Nevertheless, these findings have not consistently replicated across different studies. Here, we suggest that considering country of origin—previously overlooked as a possible source of variation in responses—is important for understanding when and why individuals punish one another. We conducted a two-player stealing game with punishment, using data from 2,400 subjects recruited from the USA and India. US-based subjects punished in response to losses and disadvantageous inequality, but seldom invested in antisocial punishment (defined here as punishment of non-stealing partners). India-based subjects, on the other hand, punished at higher levels than US-based subjects and, so long as they did not experience disadvantageous inequality, punished stealing and non-stealing partners indiscriminately. Nevertheless, as in the USA, when stealing resulted in disadvantageous inequality, India-based subjects punished stealing partners more than non-stealing partners. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that variation in punitive behavior varies across societies, and support the idea that punishment might sometimes function to improve relative status, rather than to enforce cooperation.

Type: Article
Title: Exploring the Motivations for Punishment: Framing and Country-Level Effects
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159769
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159769
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 Bone et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, ALTRUISTIC PUNISHMENT, ANTISOCIAL PUNISHMENT, HUMAN COOPERATION, SOCIETIES, HUMANS, COMPETITION, SANCTIONS, EVOLUTION, GAMES
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1508723
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