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Inequality-Seeking Punishment

  • Daniel Houser

    ()

    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, George Mason University)

  • Erte Xiao

    ()

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

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.

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File URL: http://www.gmu.edu/schools/chss/economics/icesworkingpapers.gmu.edu/pdf/1009.pdf
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Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1009.

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Length: 11 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1009
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  1. Naci Mocan, 2013. "Vengeance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 969-982, July.
  2. Xiao, Erte & Houser, Daniel, 2011. "Punish in public," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 1006-1017.
  3. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs, 2005. "Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions," IZA Discussion Papers 1635, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Fudenberg, Drew & Dreber, Anna & Rand, David G. & Nowak, Martin, 2008. "Winners Don't Punish," Scholarly Articles 2252594, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. James Cox & Klarita Sadiraj & Vjollca Sadiraj, 2008. "Implications of trust, fear, and reciprocity for modeling economic behavior," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(1), pages 1-24, March.
  7. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  8. Daniel Houser & Erte Xiao & Kevin McCabe & Vernon Smith, 2005. "When punishment fails: Research on sanctions, intentions and non- cooperation," Experimental 0503001, EconWPA.
  9. Fershtman, Chaim & Gneezy, Uri & List, John, 2008. "Equity Aversion," CEPR Discussion Papers 6853, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 1999. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 183, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Xiao, Erte & Houser, Daniel, 2009. "Avoiding the sharp tongue: Anticipated written messages promote fair economic exchange," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 393-404, June.
  12. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  13. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2003. "On the Nature of Fair Behavior," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(1), pages 20-26, January.
  14. Blount, Sally, 1995. "When Social Outcomes Aren't Fair: The Effect of Causal Attributions on Preferences," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 131-144, August.
  15. Xiao, Erte & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2010. "When equality trumps reciprocity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 456-470, June.
  16. 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.
  17. Bicchieri, Cristina & Erte, Xiao, 2007. "Do the right thing: But only if others do so," MPRA Paper 4609, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  18. Erte Xiao & Daniel Houser, 2005. "Emotion expression in human punishment behavior," Experimental 0504003, EconWPA, revised 18 May 2005.
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