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Anger Management: Aggression and Punishment in the Provision of Public Goods

Department of Economics, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA
Department of Psychology, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Roman Sheremeta and Eric Schniter
Games 2017, 8(1), 5;
Received: 2 November 2016 / Revised: 4 January 2017 / Accepted: 4 January 2017 / Published: 22 January 2017
PDF [4830 KB, uploaded 22 January 2017]


The ability to punish free-riders can increase the provision of public goods. However, sometimes, the benefit of increased public good provision is outweighed by the costs of punishments. One reason a group may punish to the point that net welfare is reduced is that punishment can express anger about free-riding. If this is the case, then tools that regulate emotions could decrease the use of punishments while keeping welfare high, possibly depending on pre-existing levels of aggression. In this lab experiment, we find that adopting an objective attitude (objective), through a form of emotion regulation called cognitive reappraisal, decreases the use of punishments and makes a statistically insignificant improvement to both net earnings and self-reported emotions compared to a control condition (natural). Although the interaction between the emotion regulation treatment and level of aggression is not significant, only low aggression types reduce their punishments; the results are of the same direction, but statistically insignificant for high aggression types. Overall, our findings suggest that pairing emotion regulation with punishments can decrease the use of punishments without harming monetary and mental welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: public goods; punishment; emotions public goods; punishment; emotions

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Gee, L.K.; Lyu, X.; Urry, H. Anger Management: Aggression and Punishment in the Provision of Public Goods. Games 2017, 8, 5.

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