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On Punishment and Well-being


  • Jordi Brandts


  • María Fernanda Rivas


The existence of punishment opportunities has been shown to cause efficiency in some public goods experiments to increase considerably. In this paper we ask whether punishment also has a downside in terms of process dissatisfaction. We conduct an experiment to study the conjecture that an environment with strong punishment possibilities may lead to higher material payoffs but lower subjective well-being, in comparison with weaker punishment or no punishment possibilities at all. The more general motivation for our study stems from the notion that people's subjective well-being may be affected by the institutional environment they find themselves in. Our findings show that harsher punishment possibilities lead to significantly higher well-being, controlling for earnings and other relevant variables. These results complement the evidence on the neural basis of altruistic punishment reported in de Quervain et al. (2004).

Suggested Citation

  • Jordi Brandts & María Fernanda Rivas, 2009. "On Punishment and Well-being," Post-Print hal-00723633, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-00723633
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2009.08.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
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    6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:86:y:1992:i:02:p:404-417_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Pedro Bó, 2007. "Social norms, cooperation and inequality," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 30(1), pages 89-105, January.
    9. Edward C. Norton & Hua Wang & Chunrong Ai, 2004. "Computing interaction effects and standard errors in logit and probit models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 4(2), pages 154-167, June.
    10. Charness, Gary & Grosskopf, Brit, 2001. "Relative payoffs and happiness: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 301-328, July.
    11. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Monetary and Nonmonetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 366-380, March.
    12. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    13. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:soceco:v:68:y:2017:i:c:p:62-78 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. De Hoop, Thomas & Van Kempen, Luuk & Linssen, Rik & Van Eerdewijk, Anouka, 2010. "Women's Autonomy and Subjective Well-Being in India: How Village Norms Shape the Impact of Self-Help Groups," MPRA Paper 25921, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Róbert F. Veszteg & Erita Narhetali, 2010. "Public-good games and the Balinese," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(9), pages 660-675, August.

    More about this item


    C92; D60; H40; Public Goods; Experiments; Well-being; Punishment;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General


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