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On punishment institutions and effective deterrence of illicit behavior

Author

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  • Buckenmaier, Johannes
  • Dimant, Eugen
  • Posten, Ann-Christin
  • Schmidt, Ulrich

Abstract

Reducing criminal acts in society is a crucial duty of governments. Establishing punishment structures to attain this goal involves high costs. Typically, both theorists and practitioners resort to the adjustment of severity and/or certainty of punishment as effective deterrents of criminal behavior. One more cost effective, but scientifically understudied mechanism for effective deterrence is the swiftness of punishment. We carry out the first controlled economic experiment to study the effectiveness of swiftness of punishment along the following two dimensions: the timing of punishment and the timing of the resolution of uncertainty regarding punishment. Our results indicate an inverted u-shaped relation between the delay of punishment, the delay of uncertainty resolution regarding the detection of deviant behavior, and any resulting deterrence. In fact, institutions that either reveal detection and impose punishment immediately or maintain uncertainty about the state of detection and impose punishment sufficiently late deter individuals at equal rates. We conclude that the same institutional settings that are capable of reducing recidivism are also the ones deterring deviant behavior in the first place. Our results yield strong policy implications for designing effective institutions in mitigating misconduct and reducing recidivism.

Suggested Citation

  • Buckenmaier, Johannes & Dimant, Eugen & Posten, Ann-Christin & Schmidt, Ulrich, 2017. "On punishment institutions and effective deterrence of illicit behavior," Kiel Working Papers 2090, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifwkwp:2090
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
    2. Tomasz Strzalecki, 2013. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Recursive Models of Ambiguity Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(3), pages 1039-1074, May.
    3. George Wu, 1999. "Anxiety and Decision Making with Delayed Resolution of Uncertainty," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 159-199, April.
    4. Yu, Jiang, 1994. "Punishment celerity and severity: Testing a specific deterrence model on drunk driving recidivism," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 355-366.
    5. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1986. "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 251-278, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant, 2018. "It's Not A Lie If You Believe It. Lying and Belief Distortion Under Norm-Uncertainty," PPE Working Papers 0012, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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