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Anger Management: Aggression and Punishment in the Provision of Public Goods

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  • Gee, Laura Katherine

    () (Tufts University)

  • Lyu, Xinxin

    () (Tufts University)

  • Urry, Heather

    () (Tufts University)

Abstract

The ability to punish free-riders can increase the provision of public goods. However, sometimes the benefit of increased public good provision is outweighed by the costs of punishments. One reason a group may punish to the point that net welfare is reduced is that punishment can express anger about free-riding. If this is the case, then tools that regulate emotions could decrease the use of punishments while keeping welfare high, possibly depending on pre-existing levels of aggression. In this lab experiment, we find that adopting an objective attitude (Objective), through a form of emotion regulation called cognitive reappraisal, decreases the use of punishments and makes a statistically insignificant improvement to both net earnings and self-reported emotions compared to a control condition (Natural). Although the interaction between the emotion regulation treatment and level of aggression is not significant, only low aggression types reduce their punishments; the results are of the same direction but statistically insignificant for high aggression types. Overall, our findings suggest that pairing emotion regulation with punishments can decrease the use of punishments without harming monetary and mental welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Gee, Laura Katherine & Lyu, Xinxin & Urry, Heather, 2017. "Anger Management: Aggression and Punishment in the Provision of Public Goods," IZA Discussion Papers 10499, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10499
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    public goods; punishment; emotions;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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