Observed Punishment Spillover Effects: A Laboratory Investigation of Behavior in a Social Dilemma
Punishment has been shown to be an effective reinforcement mechanism. Intentional or not, punishment will likely generate spillover effects that extend beyond one’s immediate decision environment, and these spillovers are not as well understood. We seek to understand these secondary spillover effects in a controlled lab setting using a standard social dilemma: the voluntary contributions mechanism. We find that spillovers occur when others observe punishment outside their own social dilemma. However, the direction of the spillover effect depends crucially on personal punishment history and whether one is personally exempt from punishment or not. Key Words: Punishment, Punishment Spillovers, Vicarious Punishment, VCM, Social Dilemma, Experiment
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