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Punishment is strongly motivated by revenge and weakly motivated by inequity aversion

Deutchman, P; Bračič, M; Raihani, N; McAuliffe, K; (2021) Punishment is strongly motivated by revenge and weakly motivated by inequity aversion. Evolution and Human Behavior , 42 (1) pp. 12-20. 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2020.06.001. Green open access

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Abstract

There are two broad functional explanations for second-party punishment: fitness-leveling and deterrence. The former suggests that people punish to reduce fitness differences, while the latter suggests that people punish in order to reciprocate losses and deter others from inflicting losses on them in the future. We explore the relative roles of these motivations using a pre-registered, two-player experiment with 2426 US participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Participants played as the “responder” and were assigned to either a Take or Augment condition. In the Take condition, the “partner” could steal money from the responder's bonus or do nothing. In the Augment condition, the partner could augment the responder's bonus by giving them money at no cost to themselves or do nothing. We also manipulated the responders' starting endowments, such that after the partner's decision, responders experienced different payoff outcomes: advantageous inequity, equality, or varying degrees of disadvantageous inequity. Responders then decided whether to pay a cost to punish the partner. Punishment was clearly influenced by theft and was most frequent when theft resulted in disadvantageous inequity. However, people also punished in the absence of theft, particularly when confronted with disadvantageous inequity. While the effect of inequity on punishment was small, our results suggest that punishment is motivated by more than just the desire to reciprocate losses. These findings highlight the multiple motivations undergirding punishment and bear directly on functional explanations for the existence of punishment in human societies.

Type: Article
Title: Punishment is strongly motivated by revenge and weakly motivated by inequity aversion
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2020.06.001
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2020.06.001
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Punishment, Inequity aversion, Revenge, Deterrence, Fitness-leveling, Competition
UCL classification: UCL
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: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10111730
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