Altruistic punishment and the threat of feuds

Nikos Nikiforakis, Dirk Engelmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Altruistic punishment may promote cooperation, but can also lead to costly feuds. We examine how the threat of feuds affects individuals' willingness to engage in altruistic punishment in a public good experiment in which the number of stages is determined by participants' actions. The design imposes minimal restrictions on who can punish whom and when, and therefore allows participants to use a range of punishment strategies. We find that participants recognize the threat of feuds and respond to it by employing strategies that prevent their breakout. When feuds can span several periods, the extent of altruistic punishment is greatly reduced. This leads to progressively lower levels of cooperation and earnings relative to a baseline treatment where punishment cannot be avenged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Altruistic punishment
  • Counter-punishment
  • Feuds
  • Public good game
  • Revenge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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