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Social Identity and Punishment

  • Jeffrey V. Butler


  • Pierluigi Conzo

    (University of Turin)

  • Martin A. Leroch

    (University of Mainz)

Third party punishment is crucial for sustaining cooperative behavior. Still, little is known about its determinants. In this paper we use laboratory experiments to investigate a long-conjectured interaction between group identification and bystanders' punishment preferences using a novel measure of these preferences. We induce minimal groups and give a bystander the opportunity to punish the perpetrator of an unfair act against a defenseless victim. We elicit the bystander's valuation for punishment in four cases - when the perpetrator, the victim, both or neither are members of the bystander's group. We generate testable predictions about the rank order of punishment valuations from a simple framework incorporating group-contingent preferences for justice which are largely confirmed. Finally, we conduct control sessions where groups are not induced. Comparing punishment across treatment and control suggests that third-party punishers tend to treat others as in-group members unless otherwise divided.

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Paper provided by Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) in its series EIEF Working Papers Series with number 1316.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision: May 2013
Handle: RePEc:eie:wpaper:1316
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