Measuring the Distribution of Spitefulness
AbstractSpiteful, antisocial behavior undermines the moral and institutional fabric of society, producingdisorder, fear and mistrust. Previous research demonstrates the willingness of individuals to harmothers, but little is understood about how far people are willing to go in being spiteful or theirconsistency in spitefulness across repeated trials. Our experiment is the first to provideindividuals with repeated opportunities to spitefully harm anonymous others when the decisionentails zero cost to the spiter and cannot be observed by the object of spite. This method revealsthat the majority of individuals exhibit consistent (non-)spitefulness over time and that thedistribution of spitefulness is bipolar: when choosing whether to be spiteful, most individualseither avoid spite altogether or impose the maximum possible harm on their unwitting victims.
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