The effects of endowment size and strategy method on third party punishment
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Numerous experiments have shown that people often engage in third-party punishment (3PP) of selfish behavior. This evidence has been used to argue that people respond to selfishness with anger, and get utility from punishing those who mistreat others. Elements of the standard 3PP experimental design, however, allow alternative explanations: it has been argued that 3PP could be motivated by envy (as selfish dictators earn high payoffs), or could be influenced by the use of the strategy method (which is known to influence second-party punishment). Here we test these alternatives by varying the third party’s endowment and the use of the strategy method, and measuring punishment. We find that while third parties do report more envy when they have lower endowments, neither manipulation significantly affects punishment. We also show that punishment is associated with ratings of anger but not of envy. Thus, our results suggest that 3PP is not an artifact of self-focused envy or use of the strategy method. Instead, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that 3PP is motivated by anger.