Mixing the carrots with the sticks: Third party punishment and reward

Nikos Nikiforakis, Helen Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the opportunity to punish selfish and reward generous behavior coexist in many instances in daily life, in most laboratory studies, the demand for punishment and reward are studied separately from one another. This paper presents the results from an experiment measuring the demand for reward and punishment by 'unaffected' third parties, separately and jointly. We find that the demand for costly punishment is substantially lower when individuals are also given the ability to reward. Similarly, the demand for costly reward is lower when individuals can also punish. The evidence indicates the reason for this is that costly punishment and reward are not only used to alter the material payoff of others as assumed by recent economic models, but also as a signal of disapproval and approval of others' actions, respectively. When the opportunity exists, subjects often choose to withhold reward as a form of costless punishment, and to withhold punishment as a form of costless reward. We conclude that restricting the available options to punishing (rewarding) only, may lead to an increase in the demand for costly punishment (reward).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalExperimental Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Norm enforcement
  • Punishment
  • Reward
  • Social norms
  • Third party

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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