Feel like someone’s done you wrong? It could hurt more if they get ahead doing so.
If you find yourself living as a prisoner of war like senator John McCain did, you might feel certain that punishment is always motivated by a need for revenge.
But researchers from University College, London and Harvard have found that, under most circumstances, this isn’t the case. It’s all about equality.
Dr. Nichola Raihani (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) and her team wanted to look at the emotions surrounding cheating. It’s a fact that when someone cheats, we usually want to punish them, of course. Previous research has shown that the emotions involved in the punishment are almost always negative, but studies to date haven’t gone any further than that.
So, what is it that motivates us to fine and confine someone who does something like steal our money?
Fairness. Apparently, most of us only care to punish someone when they cheat and they manage to get ahead of us, in doing so. If the person steals $100 dollars from our wallet but the money is lost or donated to someone else who is far worse off than us, we don’t seem to care.
What good is this news? Researchers are hoping that the study can provide insights into how and where societies’ punishments can be implemented in the most effective ways.
Until then, keep your pockets zipped and your bills folded up tight.
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