Rules about punishment dictate how one must behave to ensure that one’s punishment behavior is not met with social disapproval. These rules can be both prescriptive, telling us when we have to punish and how much we must punish at a minimum, and restrictive, telling us when we cannot punish or what the maximum punishment can be. In this chapter we investigate the general features of these rules, focusing on punishment of norm violations in social dilemmas.
Researchers have often viewed the provision of punishment as a costly public good that must itself be enforced, creating a second order social dilemma that requires prescriptive norms for people to "cooperate", i.e., to punish. We argue that this is a misunderstanding of the nature of punishment and go through theoretical reasons for why prescriptive rules about punishment might not be important. Instead, we discuss the reasons that restrictive norms could benefit the group and review experiments where this is shown to be the case.
Finally we report the results of four surveys that use real world situations to assess people’s views about punishment in several countries. We find that punishment behavior is regulated by generally agreed upon views (i.e., norms), which are largely restrictive rather than prescriptive. Results show a strong consistency across scenarios and countries, indicating that these norms follow general principles.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 52-69 p.