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New Publication on the Motives for Punishing Powerful vs. Prestigious Offenders and the Role of Group Identification

Published: 21-02-2022

Status can be seen as power over valued resources or as prestige that lies in the eyes of the beholder. Kyriaki Fousiani and Jan-Willem Van Prooijen examined how status as power versus prestige influence observers’ punishing motives. They found that people have different motives to punish powerful versus prestigious offenders. More specifically, people are more likely to indicate instrumental decision-making when faced with offenders who have access to resources, by seeking to incapacitate them. This is the case especially when offenders are ingroup rather than outgroup members.

The article was published open-access and can be found here.

 

Abstract:

Status can be seen as power over valued resources or as prestige that lies in the eyes of the beholder. In the present research, we examine how power versus prestige influence observers’ punishing motives. Possession of power im-plies the capacity to harm and elicits threat and therefore should trigger stronger incapacitative motives for punish-ing an offender. In contrast, prestige signals the observer's admiration of the target and therefore should elicit a strong motivation to help an offender reintegrate into society. Studies 1 and 2 manipulated an offender's status (power vs. prestige vs. control) and group identity (ingroup vs. out-group). Supporting our hypotheses, both studies revealed that observers had stronger incapacitative motivations to-wards powerful as opposed to prestigious offenders, par-ticularly when the offender came from the ingroup. Study 2 also showed that observers had stronger restorative mo-tives towards a prestigious as opposed to powerful offender. Contrary to expectations, group identity did not moderate the effect of status on observer's restorative motives. Study 3 manipulated power and prestige separately and showed that power elicits stronger incapacitative motives through ingroup threat and perceived capacity to harm. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.