The Urge to Punish Is Not Only About Revenge — Unfairness Can Unleash It, Too

Paul Deutchman and Katherine McAuliffe: Unfairness alone is upsetting — upsetting enough to drive people to punish those who have benefited from unfair outcomes. Along with our colleague Nichola Raihani, we recently completed a psychology experiment that supports this concept. The idea that unfairness alone can motivate punishment runs counter to a lot of existing research that suggests punishment is driven primarily by revenge. Why does this matter? Because understanding what motivates punishment can help shed light on the functions it serves in human societies — and possibly even why punishment evolved in the first place.

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