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Third-party punishment: Retribution or deterrence?

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  • Tan, Fangfang
  • Xiao, Erte

Abstract

We conduct an experiment to examine the role of retribution and deterrence in motivating third-party punishment. Specifically, we examine how these two motives may play different roles depending on whether a third party is a group or an individual. In a one-shot prisoner’s dilemma game with third-party punishment, we find that groups are more likely to punish when the penalty embeds deterrence rather than mere retribution. By contrast, when individual third parties make punishment decisions, they appear to give little weight to the deterrent effect of the punishment. In general, groups are less likely than individuals to impose punishment, even though the punishment is costless for third parties. However, decision-makers in the prisoner’s dilemma game do not distinguish between an individual third party and a group third party.

Suggested Citation

  • Tan, Fangfang & Xiao, Erte, 2018. "Third-party punishment: Retribution or deterrence?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 34-46.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:34-46
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2018.03.003
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Third-party punishment; Group decision-making; Retribution; Deterrence; Social dilemmas; Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General

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