FOLK retributivism and the communication confound

Thomas Nadelhoffer, Saeideh Heshmati, Deanna Kaplan, Shaun Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Retributivist accounts of punishment maintain that it is right to punish wrongdoers, even if the punishment has no future benefits. Research in experimental economics indicates that people are willing to pay to punish defectors. A complementary line of work in social psychology suggests that people think that it is right to punish wrongdoers. This work suggests that people are retributivists about punishment. However, all of the extant work contains an important potential confound. The target of the punishment is expected to be aware of the punitive act. Thus, it's possible that people punish because they want to communicate something to the wrongdoer, e.g. disapproval, the presence of a norm, etc. In three studies, we examine whether people will punish even when the punishee will be ignorant. We find that people are no less likely to punish when the punishee will be ignorant. This finding emerges both in a survey study and in a monetized behavioural decision study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-261
Number of pages27
JournalEconomics and Philosophy
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Economics and Econometrics

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