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Peer Punishment of Free Riders in Task Groups
Keywords: Punishment; Status hierarchy; Social undermining
Abstract: In the present research, we argue that peer punishment of free riders might take place as a result of coordination among non-free rider members and that, therefore, free rider punishment is more likely in groups in which members have a mechanism for coordinating activities among themselves. Specifically, we investigate the role of status differentiation among group members in facilitating coordination and thus engendering peer punishment of free riders. In two studies, we found that when there was a free rider in an interdependent task group, punishment of the free rider was more likely in groups in which members were differentiated in terms of status, especially by high-status members of these status-differentiated groups. We also found that high-status members of status-differentiated groups punished a free rider because they felt personally responsible for doing so and that they used social undermining behavior to punish free riders.