Intergroup bias in third-party punishment stems from both ingroup favoritism and outgroup discrimination

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Social norms pervade almost every aspect of social interaction. If they are violated, not only legal institutions, but other members of society as well, punish, i.e., inflict costs on the wrongdoer. Sanctioning occurs even when the punishers themselves were not harmed directly and even when it is costly for them. There is evidence for intergroup bias in this third-party punishment: third-parties, who share group membership with victims, punish outgroup perpetrators more harshly than ingroup perpetrators. However, it is unknown whether a discriminatory treatment of outgroup perpetrators (outgroup discrimination) or a preferential treatment of ingroup perpetrators (ingroup favoritism) drives this bias. To answer this question, the punishment of outgroup and ingroup perpetrators must be compared to a baseline, i.e., unaffiliated perpetrators. By applying a costly punishment game, we found stronger punishment of outgroup versus unaffiliated perpetrators and weaker punishment of ingroup versus unaffiliated perpetrators. This demonstrates that both ingroup favoritism and outgroup discrimination drive intergroup bias in third-party punishment of perpetrators that belong to distinct social groups. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.




Schiller, B., Baumgartner, T., & Knoch, D. (2014). Intergroup bias in third-party punishment stems from both ingroup favoritism and outgroup discrimination. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(3), 169–175.

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