Original article:

Who punishes? Personality traits predict individual variation in punitive sentiment

Evolutionary Psychology 11(1): 186-200 S. Craig Roberts, Division of Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK, craig.roberts@stir.ac.ukAntonios Vakirtzis, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UKLilja Kristjánsdóttir, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.Jan Havlíček, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Abstract

Cross-culturally, participants in public goods games reward participants and punish defectors to a degree beyond that warranted by rational, profit-maximizing considerations. Costly punishment, where individuals impose costs on defectors at a cost to themselves, is thought to promote the maintenance of cooperation. However, despite substantial variation in the extent to which people punish, little is known about why some individuals, and not others, choose to pay these costs. Here, we test whether personality traits might contribute to variation in helping and punishment behavior. We first replicate a previous study using public goods scenarios to investigate effects of sex, relatedness and likelihood of future interaction on willingness to help a group member or to punish a transgressor. As in the previous study, we find that individuals are more willing to help related than unrelated needy others and that women are more likely to express desire to help than men. Desire to help was higher if the probability of future interaction is high, at least among women. In contrast, among these variables, only participant sex predicted some measures of punitive sentiment. Extending the replication, we found that punitive sentiment, but not willingness to help, was predicted by personality traits. Most notably, participants scoring lower on Agreeableness expressed more anger towards and greater desire to punish a transgressor, and were more willing to engage in costly punishment, at least in our scenario. Our results suggest that some personality traits may contribute to underpinning individual variation in social enforcement of cooperation.

Keywords

reciprocity, altruistic punishment, prisoner’s dilemma, ultimatum game, evolutionary economics

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)
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