Who punishes? The status of the punishers affects the perceived success of, and indirect benefits from, ''moralistic'' punishment
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© The Author(s) 2016.''Moralistic'' punishment of free riders can provide a beneficial reputation, but the immediate behavior is costly to the punisher. In Study 1, we investigated whether variation in status would be perceived to offset or mitigate the costs of punishment. One hundred and nineteen participants were presented with a vignette describing a punishment scenario. Participants predicted whether punishment would occur, how successful it would be, and indicated their attitude to the punisher. Participants believed only intervention by a high-status (HS) individual would be successful and that low-status (LS) individuals would not intervene at all. HS individuals predicted to punish successfully were seen as more formidable and likable. Study 2 investigated whether punishment was necessary to maintain an HS position. One hundred and seventeen participants were presented with a vignette describing a punishment scenario. Participants were asked to indicate whether they wished to be led by the punisher. HS individuals who did not punish were less likely to be chosen as leaders compared to HS punishers, whereas LS individuals who punished were no more or less likely to be chosen than nonpunishers. The results of both studies suggest that only HS individuals are expected to punish, likely because such a position offsets some of the costs of punishment. As a result, only HS individual can access the reputation benefits from punishment. Furthermore, an HS position may be dependent on the willingness to punish antisocial behavior. The ramifications that these results may have for the evolution of moralistic punishment are discussed.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: We would like to acknowledge the financial support provided for this project by the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter.
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Vol. 14, Iss. 3, pp. 1 - 14