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The Moral Punishment Instinct$
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Jan-Willem van Prooijen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190609979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190609979.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
The Moral Punishment Instinct

Jan-Willem van Prooijen

Oxford University Press

Of primary importance to people is that punishment feel fair, even if a punishment is, objectively speaking, irrational (e.g., kidnapper-murderer-rapist Ariel Castro was punished with 1,000 years’ imprisonment on top of a life sentence). Building on the assertion that punishment is intimately connected with feelings of justice, the chapter outlines that people evolved a moral punishment instinct because it was adaptive in promoting cooperation. Initial findings suggest that people have an inborn tendency to punish. Punishment occurs in all known cultures; punishment occurs also among other social animals; punishment is associated with activation of old, emotional regions of the brain; and young children, including eight-month-old babies, punish. The chapter will also define punishment, and clarify a few crucial terms such as costly punishment, revenge, and aggression.

Keywords:   Moral punishment instinct, justice, cooperation, revenge, aggression, culture, non-human animals, neurological evidence, children

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