A neuroeconomic framework for investigating gender disparities in moralistic punishment

Megha Chawla, Brian D. Earp, Molly J. Crockett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Moralistic punishment is common in humans and functions to discourage perceived moral transgressions. Research in neuroeconomics suggests that moralistic punishment behavior is associated with activity in neural systems involved in detecting norm violations and in value-based decision-making. Separately, research in philosophy and social psychology highlights different moral expectations for girls/women and boys/men. Here, we synthesize these perspectives to propose a framework for investigating gender disparities in punishment. We propose such disparities may arise through multiple channels, including (1) differences in how the neural salience network responds to perceived norm violations, with stronger responses when women (versus men) violate feminine-coded norms, and when men (versus women) violate masculine-coded norms; and (2) differences in how the neural valuation network tracks the value of punishment decisions, with stronger responses when punishing gender-specific norm violations. We review literature on gendered moral expectations and neural mechanisms underlying moralistic punishment, and suggest hypotheses for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-172
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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