ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (2): 436-448.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.00436

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Antisocial punishment in the game

CHEN Jing1,2, ZHANG Rong2, YUAN Jiaqi2, SHE Shengxiang3   

  1. 1School of Education and Psychology, Chengdu Normal University, Chengdu 611130, China;
    2School of Psychology, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610068, China;
    3School of Business Administration, Guizhou University of Finance and Economics, Guiyang 550004, China
  • Received:2021-03-21 Online:2022-02-25 Published:2021-12-24
  • Contact: SHE Shengxiang E-mail:; CHEN Jing E-mail:;

Abstract: Punishment has two sides, the “prosocial” side (altruistic punishment) and the “antisocial” side (antisocial punishment). Antisocial punishment is widespread in human society and seriously undermines cooperation, but it is ignored by researchers because it is difficult to observe and quantify, and does not have a positive effect similar to altruistic punishment. In this article, we systematically reviewed, analyzed, and evaluated the literature in this field; and put forward research prospects and theoretical hypotheses based on the concept and research paradigms of anti-social punishment, influencing factors, and theory hypotheses of production mechanism.
First of all, combined with the diversified performance of anti-social punishment in the field of non-economic games, the classical concept of anti-social punishment is extended, and defined as: the phenomenon that the game participants implements economic punishment(with monetary cost), negative evaluation, or exclusion and suppression on others who exhibit high contributions or cooperation of prosocial behavior.
Moreover, we sorted out the corresponding research paradigms and influencing factors; as a complex social behavior, antisocial punishment is affected by a variety of individual and environmental factors. Individual factors include both physical and psychological aspects. Testosterone, social cognition, subjective willingness, the role of the intuitive system, working memory, mental illness, and Dark Triad personality traits all have an impact on antisocial punishment. There are three main aspects in environmental factors, including task contextual factors (i.e., cost-to-impact ratio, information availability, and situational competitiveness), group factors (i.e., differences between internal and external groups, group decision-making, and individual decision-making, etc.), and sociocultural and developmental factors (i.e., social culture and social development level).
Furthermore, five hypotheses of the production mechanism of antisocial punishment were summarized as follows: (i) the aggression hypothesis regards antisocial punishment as an aggressive behavior, which is derived from malicious motivation or internal negative traits of an individual; (ii) the revenge hypothesis holds that antisocial punishment is a behavioral response based on tit-for-tat strategy, which occurs when individuals themselves are punished by others; (iii) the social comparison hypothesis suggests that antisocial punishment is a defense against threats to reputation and self-concept; (iv) deviant group norm hypothesis holds that antisocial punishment is the maintenance of group norms; (v) the evolutionary strategy hypothesis, based on the perspective of evolutionary psychology, holds that antisocial punishment is a dominant strategy beneficial to individuals and groups, and a way to gain advantages. All the above hypotheses are partial and incomplete claims. By combining the social information processing theories with the dual-process theories of decision-making, we further proposed the dual-process model of antisocial punishment. We deem that antisocial punishment is the result of an individual's further processing and interpretation of social cues, interpersonal interaction, and emotional experience, which is based on one's own internal factors; for different individuals and situations, the deliberative processing system and affective processing system are activated respectively to further dominate decision-making behavior.
Finally, the research prospects were put forward from five aspects. (i) Further clarify the concept and measurement indicators. (ii) Further innovate research methods, such as developing real-life decision scenario simulation tasks with more ecological validity, and developing implicit association tests. (iii) Expand studies of influencing factors. Specifically, further explore the impacts of demographic variables, interpersonal factors, and Chinese native culture on antisocial punishment. (iv) Further clarify the mechanism of antisocial punishment from the level of neuroscience, construct the psychological model to explain the mechanism of antisocial punishment and verify its effectiveness. (v) Conduct targeted intervention research.

Key words: game, antisocial punishment, do-gooder derogation, punishment, cooperation

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