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IACM 2023

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How Reputation Does (and Does Not) Drive People To Punish Without Looking

Does reputation inspire “punishment without looking”? Across four studies (total n = 10,343), we invited “Actors” to sign punitive petitions (“punishment”), with or without first reading articles opposing these petitions (“looking”). Furthermore, we invited “Evaluators” to allocate money to Actors. We found that Evaluators rewarded Actors who punished, and Actors punished more when punishing was observable to Evaluators. Furthermore, because some of these Actors did not look, making punishment observable increased punishment without looking. Yet punishers who eschewed opposing perspectives did not appear particularly virtuous. Rather, Evaluators preferred Actors who punished with looking. Making looking observable thus drove Actors to look more overall—and to punish without looking at comparable or diminished rates. Thus, reputation can encourage reflexive punishment—but simply as a byproduct of generally encouraging punishment, and not as a specific reputational strategy. Indeed, rather than fueling unquestioning decisions, spotlighting punishers’ decision-making processes may actually encourage reflection.

Jillian Jordan
Harvard Business School
United States

Nour Kteily
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
United States


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