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Emotion expression in human punishment behavior

Erte Xiao () and Daniel Houser ()

Experimental from EconWPA

Abstract: Evolutionary theory reveals that punishment is effective in promoting cooperation and maintaining social norms. Although it is accepted that emotions are connected to punishment decisions, there remains substantial debate over why humans use costly punishment. Here we show experimentally that constraints on emotion expression can increase the use of costly punishment. We report data from Ultimatum Games11, where a proposer offers a division of a sum of money and a responder decides whether to accept the split, or reject and leave both players with nothing. Compared to the treatment where expressing emotions directly to proposers is prohibited, rejection of unfair offers is significantly less frequent when responders can convey their feelings to the proposer concurrently with their decisions. These data support the view that costly punishment might itself be used to express negative emotions, and suggest that future studies will benefit by recognizing that human demand for emotion expression can have significant behavioral consequences in social environments including families, courts, companies and markets.

Keywords: ultimatum game; emotion expression; sanctions; cooperation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C9 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-evo and nep-exp
Date: 2005-04-08, Revised 2005-05-18
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 32
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