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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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When Punishment Backfires

When Punishment Backfires

(p.151) 6 When Punishment Backfires
The Moral Punishment Instinct

Jan-Willem van Prooijen

Oxford University Press

Sometimes punishment can undermine cooperation. Antisocial punishment, where uncooperative group members punish cooperative group members, exists particularly in countries with lower levels of trust towards strangers. Furthermore, threatening with punishment in interpersonal encounters may undermine trust and cooperation, as people see the unwarranted threat of punishment as unfair. Finally, in economic games, punishment often increases cooperation but decreases the net payoff for individual participants. These insights are integrated with the idea that punishment is a moral instinct. This chapter notes that the cultural conditions that enable antisocial punishment emerged only recently in our evolutionary history, when people started living in large states and could be relatively self-sufficient. Furthermore, punishment not only increases but also stabilizes cooperation, increasing the net payoff for individuals in the long run.

Keywords:   Antisocial punishment, cooperation, trust towards strangers, culture of honor, trust game, net payoff

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