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Reflexive Intergroup Bias in Third-Party Punishment

41 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2015 Last revised: 19 Dec 2016

Daniel A. Yudkin

New York University (NYU)

Tobias Rothmund

University of Koblenz-Landau

Mathias Twardawski

University of Koblenz-Landau

Natasha Thalla

Lehigh University

Jay J Van Bavel

New York University (NYU) - Department of Psychology

Date Written: August 20, 2015

Abstract

Humans show a rare tendency to punish norm-violators who have not harmed them directly — a behavior known as third-party punishment. Research has found that third-party punishment is subject to intergroup bias, whereby people punish members of the out-group more severely than the in-group. While the prevalence of this behavior is well-documented, the psychological processes underlying it remain largely unexplored. Some work suggests that it stems from people’s inherent predisposition to form alliances with in-group members and aggress against out-group members. This implies that people will show reflexive intergroup bias in third-party punishment, favoring in-group over out-group members especially when their capacity for deliberation is impaired. Here we test this hypothesis directly, examining whether intergroup bias in third-party punishment emerges from reflexive, as opposed to deliberative, components of moral cognition. In three experiments, utilizing a simulated economic game, we varied participants’ group relationship to a transgressor, measured or manipulated the extent to which they relied on reflexive or deliberative judgment, and observed people’s punishment decisions. Across group-membership manipulations (American football teams, nationalities, and baseball teams) and two assessments of reflexive judgment (response time and cognitive load), reflexive judgment heightened intergroup bias, suggesting that such bias in punishment is inherent to human moral cognition. We discuss the implications of these studies for theories of punishment, cooperation, social behavior, and legal practice.

Keywords: third-party punishment, intergroup bias, cooperation, altruism, fairness

Suggested Citation

Yudkin, Daniel A. and Rothmund, Tobias and Twardawski, Mathias and Thalla, Natasha and Van Bavel, Jay J, Reflexive Intergroup Bias in Third-Party Punishment (August 20, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2648686 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2648686

Daniel A. Yudkin

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Tobias Rothmund

University of Koblenz-Landau ( email )

56070 Koblenz-Metternich
Germany

Mathias Twardawski

University of Koblenz-Landau ( email )

56070 Koblenz-Metternich
Germany

Natasha Thalla

Lehigh University ( email )

621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Jay J Van Bavel (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Psychology ( email )

New York, NY 10003
United States

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