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Cooperation and Punishment in Humans: Exploring the Effect of Power Asymmetries and the Motivations Underpinning Punishment

Bone, JE; (2015) Cooperation and Punishment in Humans: Exploring the Effect of Power Asymmetries and the Motivations Underpinning Punishment. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

People willingly pay to harm cheats in economic games. Although, punishment ostensibly increases cooperation levels, consensus is lacking over when punishment can increase individual or group payoffs and what motivates punishment decisions. Most previous studies have assumed that all individuals are equal. However, in reality individuals often vary in terms of power, such that some players are able to inflict a greater cost on their partner than their partner is able to reciprocate. I investigated the effect of power asymmetries on cooperation and punishment in repeated prisoner's dilemma games with punishment both where cooperation investment was binary and where cooperation investment was variable. I found that punishment did not promote cooperation from targets in any conditions. Several studies have suggested that punishment may be motivated by disadvantageous inequality aversion. These findings raise the possibility that individuals use punishment to restore equality. However, the alternative that punishment is simply motivated by a desire for revenge and is not tailored to achieve equality, cannot be ruled out. I used a modified dictator game with punishment to disentangle these two possibilities. I found evidence that punishment was motivated by both a desire for revenge and a desire for equality. Individuals often punish those who deviate from social norms. Why atypical behaviour is more likely to be punished than typical behaviour remains unclear. One possibility is that individuals simply dislike norm violators. Alternatively, individuals may be more likely to punish atypical behaviour because the cost of punishment generally increases with the number of individuals punished. To test these hypotheses, I used a modified public goods game with third party punishment. My results suggest that punishment of atypical behaviour might often be explained in terms of the costs to the punisher, rather than responses to norm violators. In summary, my thesis sheds light on the conditions in which punishment is most likely to promote cooperation and on the motivations underpinning punishment decisions.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Cooperation and Punishment in Humans: Exploring the Effect of Power Asymmetries and the Motivations Underpinning Punishment
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: cooperation, co-operation, punishment, altruism, sanctions, social, norms, inequity, inequality, aversion, behaviour, evolution
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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1470831
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