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Inequality-Seeking Punishment

Author

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  • Daniel Houser

    () (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, George Mason University)

  • Erte Xiao

    () (Department of Social and Decision Science,Carnegie Mellon University)

Abstract

Inequality aversion is a key motive for punishment, with many prominent studies suggesting people use punishment to reduce or eliminate inequality. Punishment in laboratory games, however, is nearly always designed to promote equality (e.g., rejections in standard ultimatum games) and the marginal cost of punishment is typically non-trivially positive. As a consequence, individual preferences over punishment outcomes remain largely uninformed. We here report data from a laboratory experiment using dictator games. We find that when people are treated unfairly they systematically prefer to use punishment to create advantageous inequality. Our results shed new light on human preferences over punishment outcomes, and have important implications for the design of mechanisms to deter misconduct.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Houser & Erte Xiao, 2009. "Inequality-Seeking Punishment," Working Papers 1009, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1009
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jian Li & Erte Xiao & Daniel Houser & P. Read Montague, 2009. "Neural Responses to Sanction Threats in Two-Party Economic Exchange," Working Papers 1012, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
    2. Naci Mocan, 2013. "Vengeance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, pages 969-982.
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    9. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, pages 293-315.
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    15. Fudenberg, Drew & Dreber, Anna & Rand, David G. & Nowak, Martin, 2008. "Winners Don't Punish," Scholarly Articles 2252594, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    16. Houser, Daniel & Xiao, Erte & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon, 2008. "When punishment fails: Research on sanctions, intentions and non-cooperation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 509-532, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Thöni, 2014. "Inequality aversion and antisocial punishment," Theory and Decision, Springer, pages 529-545.
    2. Fangfang Tan & Erte Xiao, 2014. "Third-Party Punishment: Retribution or Deterrence?," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2014-05, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
    3. repec:eee:ecolet:v:157:y:2017:i:c:p:41-44 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Sebastian Prediger, 2011. "How does income inequality affect cooperation and punishment in public good settings?," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201138, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    5. Kriss, Peter H. & Weber, Roberto A. & Xiao, Erte, 2016. "Turning a blind eye, but not the other cheek: On the robustness of costly punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 159-177.
    6. Kimbrough Erik O. & Reiss J. Philipp, 2012. "Measuring the Distribution of Spitefulness," Research Memorandum 040, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).

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