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Human punishment is motivated by both a desire for revenge and a desire for equality

Bone, JE; Raihani, NJ; (2015) Human punishment is motivated by both a desire for revenge and a desire for equality. Evolution and Human Behavior , 36 (4) pp. 323-330. 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.02.002. Green open access

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Abstract

Humans willingly pay a cost to punish defecting partners in experimental games. However, the psychological motives underpinning punishment are unclear. Punishment could stem from the desire to reciprocally harm a cheat (i.e. revenge) which is arguably indicative of a deterrent function. Alternatively, punishment could be motivated by the desire to redress the balance between punisher and cheat. Such a desire for equality might be more indicative of a fitness-leveling function. We used a two player experimental game to disentangle these two possibilities. In this game, one player could choose to steal $0.20 from their partner. Depending on the treatment, players interacting with a stealing partner experienced either advantageous inequality, equal outcomes or disadvantageous inequality. Players could punish stealing partners, but some players had access to effective punishment (1:3 fee to fine) whereas others could only use ineffective punishment (1:1). Players who had access to effective punishment could reduce disadvantageous inequality by tailoring their investment in punishment whereas ineffective punishment did not change the relative payoffs of the individuals in the game but could be used to exact revenge. Players punished regardless of whether stealing created outcome inequality or whether punishment was ineffective at removing payoff differentials, suggesting that punishment was at least partly motivated by the desire to inflict reciprocal harm. However, in the effective punishment condition, players' tendency to punish increased if stealing resulted in disadvantageous inequality and, when possible, punishers tailored their investment in punishment to create equal outcomes. Together these findings suggest that punishment is motivated by both a desire for revenge and a desire for equality. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Type: Article
Title: Human punishment is motivated by both a desire for revenge and a desire for equality
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.02.002
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.02.0...
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright Elsevier. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licenses are available at http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0. Access may be initially restricted by the publisher.
Keywords: Cooperation, Punishment, Inequity aversion, Altruism, Economic game, Revenge, Inequality aversion
UCL classification: UCL
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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1466483
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