'It's Not About the Money. It's About Sending a Message!': Unpacking the Components of Revenge

39 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2020

See all articles by Andras Molnar

Andras Molnar

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Shereen Chaudhry

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: January 24, 2020

Abstract

We examine whether belief-based preferences—caring about what transgressors believe—play a crucial role in punishment decisions: Do punishers want to make sure that transgressors understand why they are being punished, and is this desire to affect beliefs often prioritized over distributive and retributive preferences? We test whether punishers derive utility from three distinct sources: material outcomes (their own and the transgressor's payoff), affective states (the transgressor's suffering), and cognitive states (the transgressor's beliefs about the cause of that suffering). To test which of these are central to the desire to exact vengeance, we conducted In a novel, preregistered experiment (N=1,959) in which we demonstrate that consideration for transgressors' beliefs affects punishment decisions on its own, regardless of the considerations for material outcomes (distributional preferences) and affective states (retributive preferences). By contrast, we find very little evidence for pure retributive preferences (i.e., to merely inflict suffering on transgressors). We also show that people who would otherwise enact harsh punishments, are willing to punish less severely, if by doing so they can tell the transgressor why they are punishing them. Finally, we demonstrate that the preference for affecting transgressors' beliefs cannot be explained by deterrence motives (i.e., to make transgressors behave better in the future).

Keywords: Punishment, Belief-based utility

JEL Classification: D03, C70

Suggested Citation

Molnar, Andras and Chaudhry, Shereen and Loewenstein, George F., 'It's Not About the Money. It's About Sending a Message!': Unpacking the Components of Revenge (January 24, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3524910 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3524910

Andras Molnar (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA
United States

Shereen Chaudhry

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.chicagobooth.edu/faculty/directory/c/shereen-chaudhry

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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