Fairness violations elicit greater punishment on behalf of another than for oneself

Oriel FeldmanHall, Peter Sokol-Hessner, Jay J. Van Bavel, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Classic psychology and economic studies argue that punishment is the standard response to violations of fairness norms. Typically, individuals are presented with the option to punish the transgressor or not. However, such a narrow choice set may fail to capture stronger alternative preferences for restoring justice. Here we show, in contrast to the majority of findings on social punishment, that other forms of justice restoration (for example, compensation to the victim) are strongly preferred to punitive measures. Furthermore, these alternative preferences for restoring justice depend on the perspective of the deciding agent. When people are the recipient of an unfair offer, they prefer to compensate themselves without seeking retribution, even when punishment is free. Yet when people observe a fairness violation targeted at another, they change their decision to the most punitive option. Together these findings indicate that humans prefer alternative forms of justice restoration to punishment alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5306
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Feb 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Fairness violations elicit greater punishment on behalf of another than for oneself'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this