Research Article

Antisocial Punishment Across Societies

Science  07 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5868, pp. 1362-1367
DOI: 10.1126/science.1153808

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Abstract

We document the widespread existence of antisocial punishment, that is, the sanctioning of people who behave prosocially. Our evidence comes from public goods experiments that we conducted in 16 comparable participant pools around the world. However, there is a huge cross-societal variation. Some participant pools punished the high contributors as much as they punished the low contributors, whereas in others people only punished low contributors. In some participant pools, antisocial punishment was strong enough to remove the cooperation-enhancing effect of punishment. We also show that weak norms of civic cooperation and the weakness of the rule of law in a country are significant predictors of antisocial punishment. Our results show that punishment opportunities are socially beneficial only if complemented by strong social norms of cooperation.

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