Children punish third parties to satisfy both consequentialist and retributive motives

Julia Marshall, Daniel A. Yudkin, Molly J. Crockett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Adults punish moral transgressions to satisfy both retributive motives (such as wanting antisocial others to receive their ‘just deserts’) and consequentialist motives (such as teaching transgressors that their behaviour is inappropriate). Here, we investigated whether retributive and consequentialist motives for punishment are present in children approximately between the ages of five and seven. In two preregistered studies (N = 251), children were given the opportunity to punish a transgressor at a cost to themselves. Punishment either exclusively satisfied retributive motives by only inflicting harm on the transgressor, or additionally satisfied consequentialist motives by teaching the transgressor a lesson. We found that children punished when doing so satisfied only retributive motives, and punished considerably more when doing so also satisfied consequentialist motives. Together, these findings provide evidence for the presence of both retributive and consequentialist motives in young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-368
Number of pages8
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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