Reputational and cooperative benefits of third-party compensation

OSF Preprints
Indrajeet PatilFiery Cushman

Abstract

Sometimes people intervene in others’ conflicts—so called “third-party responding”. In some cases, third parties punish perpetrators; in others, they aid victims. Across 22 studies (N > 20,000), we provide a comprehensive examination of the consequences of this choice between punishment and compensation. What do people infer from, and how do they respond to, the choice of punishment versus compensation? We find that compensating victims leads to greater reputational and cooperative benefits than punishing perpetrators. In fact, even people who themselves prefer to punish still prefer social partners who compensate. We also find that the signal that is sent via third-party compensating may be an honest signal of trustworthiness. Furthermore, we find that people accurately anticipate that observers would prefer them to compensate victims than to punish perpetrators and that participants personal decisions about whether to compensate or punish is based in part on the belief that the social norm is to compensate. These findings provide an extensive analysis of the causes and consequences of third-party responding to moral violations.

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