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Palatable punishment in real-world social dilemmas? Punishing others to increase cooperation among the unpunished

Journal article
Authors Peter Loukopoulos
Daniel Eek
S Fujii
Tommy Gärling
Published in Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 36
Issue 5
Pages 1-17
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 1-17
Language en
Keywords social dilemmas, sanctioning systems, monetary costs
Subject categories Psychology


Previous social dilemma research has shown that imposing sanctions on defection may increase cooperation, a principle often behind many attempts to solve real-world social dilemmas. Yet such sanctioning systems are often difficult to implement because they are unpopular and because there are often large costs associated with surveillance and enforcement of defection. A new sanctioning system, which intentionally punishes defection intermittently for some but not all group members in a social dilemma, is shown to increase cooperation among those not punished. This finding is referred to as the spill-over effect. The present study suggests that the spill-over effect cannot simply be attributed to cooperative tendencies as factors affecting cooperation are shown to not affect the size of the spill-over effect. The benefits of such a sanctioning system, which preserves the characteristics of a social dilemma, could include minimization of surveillance and enforcement costs as well as greater public acceptability.

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