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Anger Management: Aggression and Punishment in the Provision of Public Goods

49 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2017  

Laura K. Gee

Tufts University; IZA

Xinxin Lyu

Tufts University

Heather Urry

Tufts University

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

The ability to punish free-riders can increase the provision of public goods. However, sometimes the benefit of increased public good provision is outweighed by the costs of punishments. One reason a group may punish to the point that net welfare is reduced is that punishment can express anger about free-riding. If this is the case, then tools that regulate emotions could decrease the use of punishments while keeping welfare high, possibly depending on pre-existing levels of aggression. In this lab experiment, we find that adopting an objective attitude (Objective), through a form of emotion regulation called cognitive reappraisal, decreases the use of punishments and makes a statistically insignificant improvement to both net earnings and self-reported emotions compared to a control condition (Natural). Although the interaction between the emotion regulation treatment and level of aggression is not significant, only low aggression types reduce their punishments; the results are of the same direction but statistically insignificant for high aggression types. Overall, our findings suggest that pairing emotion regulation with punishments can decrease the use of punishments without harming monetary and mental welfare.

Keywords: public goods, punishment, emotions

JEL Classification: C72, C91, C92, D7, H41

Suggested Citation

Gee, Laura K. and Lyu, Xinxin and Urry, Heather, Anger Management: Aggression and Punishment in the Provision of Public Goods (January 2017). IZA Discussion Paper No. 10499. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2903121

Laura Katherine Gee (Contact Author)

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

IZA

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Xinxin Lyu

Tufts University ( email )

Heather Urry

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

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