Emotion expression in human punishment behavior

Erte Xiao, Daniel Houser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

248 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Evolutionary theory reveals that punishment is effective in promoting cooperation and maintaining social norms. Although it is accepted that emotions are connected to punishment decisions, there remains substantial debate over why humans use costly punishment. Here we show experimentally that constraints on emotion expression can increase the use of costly punishment. We report data from ultimatum games, where a proposer offers a division of a sum of money and a responder decides whether to accept the split, or reject and leave both players with nothing. Compared with the treatment in which expressing emotions directly to proposers is prohibited, rejection of unfair offers is significantly less frequent when responders can convey their feelings to the proposer concurrently with their decisions. These data support the view that costly punishment might itself be used to express negative emotions and suggest that future studies will benefit by recognizing that human demand for emotion expression can have significant behavioral consequences in social environments, including families, courts, companies, and markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7398-7401
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume102
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Behavioral economics
  • Cooperation
  • Sanction
  • Ultimatum game

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