Punishment is not enough: The victim is satisfied when the offender consequently displays a change in attitude

Get the message: Punishment is satisfying if the transgressor responds to its communicative intent

From Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

People who have been treated unfairly often want to punish the person who has wronged them. Psychologists know that the desire to punish and to restore justice is remarkably strong. Research identifying when punishment leads to psychological closure and a sense of restored justice can potentially aid policy makers in shaping justice procedures to better address victims’ needs, so far as this is deemed a legitimate goal of the justice process. The present set of studies outline in this paper aimed to examine what makes punishment satisfying for victims. Results demonstrate that victims’ justice-related satisfaction with punishment is influenced by the kind of feedback they receive from offenders after punishment. They also indicate that victims were most satisfied when offender feedback not only acknowledged the victim’s intent to punish but also indicated a positive moral change in the offender’s attitude toward wrongdoing.

Abstract

Results from three studies demonstrate that victims’ justice-related satisfaction with punishment is influenced by the kind of feedback they receive from offenders after punishment. In contrast to previous studies that found a discrepancy between anticipated and experienced satisfaction from punishment (Carlsmith, Wilson, & Gilbert, 2008), participants were able to accurately predict their satisfaction when made aware of the presence or absence of offender feedback acknowledging the victim’s intent to punish. Results also indicate that victims were most satisfied when offender feedback not only acknowledged the victim’s intent to punish but also indicated a positive moral change in the offender’s attitude toward wrongdoing. These findings indicate that punishment per se is neither satisfying nor dissatisfying but that it is crucial to take its communicative functions and its effects on the offender into account. Implications for psychological and philosophical theories on punishment motives as well as implications for justice procedures are discussed.

 

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Article details
Friederike Funk, Victoria McGeer, and Mario Gollwitzer
Get the Message: Punishment Is Satisfying If the Transgressor Responds to Its Communicative Intent
Pers Soc Psychol Bull August 2014 40: 986-997, first published on April 30, 2014 doi:10.1177/0146167214533130

 

 

 

 

     
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