ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (12): 1548-1561.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.01548

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


陈思静1(), 杨莎莎2(), 汪昊1, 万丰华1   

  1. 1浙江科技学院经济与管理学院, 杭州 310023
    2上海大学经济学院, 上海 200444
  • 收稿日期:2022-04-05 发布日期:2022-09-23 出版日期:2022-12-25
  • 通讯作者: 陈思静,杨莎莎;
  • 基金资助:

Subjective social class positively predicts altruistic punishment

CHEN Sijing1(), YANG Shasha2(), WANG Hao1, WAN Fenghua1   

  1. 1School of Economics and Management, Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, Hangzhou 310023, China
    2School of Economics, Shanghai University, Shanghai, 200444, China
  • Received:2022-04-05 Online:2022-09-23 Published:2022-12-25
  • Contact: CHEN Sijing,YANG Shasha;


利他性惩罚是指个体自行承担成本来惩罚违规者的行为, 它受到社会阶层的影响。研究1利用2013年中国综合社会调查数据发现阶层显著正向预测利他性惩罚。研究2 (N = 450)基于真实生活事件的调查表明, 惩罚成本调节了阶层对惩罚的影响:在成本较高的直接惩罚中, 阶层正向预测惩罚; 而在成本较低的间接惩罚中, 这种作用不再显著。研究3 (N = 232)通过操纵阶层与成本进一步证实惩罚成本的调节作用:高阶层者比低阶层者更有可能做出利他性惩罚, 但两者的差距在高成本条件下更突出。研究4 (N = 125)综合考察了阶层影响惩罚的心理机制, 多层线性分析显示:惩罚成本较低时, 阶层通过公正世界信念来间接影响惩罚, 而成本较高时, 阶层直接正向影响了惩罚。上述结果意味着利他性惩罚受到个体社会阶层的影响, 同时也在一定程度上说明在利他性惩罚中基于成本-收益的策略性考虑并非完全缺席。

关键词: 利他性惩罚, 社会阶层, 公正世界信念, 惩罚成本


Altruistic punishment means that people privately bear the cost to punish norm violators, although the punishment yields no material gain. The positive effects of altruistic punishment on cooperation and norm maintenance are well documented and the possible mechanisms underlying these effects have also been widely tested. However, an important issue remains underexplored: Does people’s social background influence their altruistic punitive behavior? If yes, how? This article uses four studies to test the relationship between altruistic punishment and social class, the psychological mechanisms underlying the relationship, as well as the boundary conditions.

Study 1 used the Chinese general social survey(2013) released by the National Survey Research Center at Renmin University of China to examine the relationship between altruistic punishment and social class. We selected two items as the dependent variables of Study 1 (D13: employees reported environmental pollution at their own cost; D23: employees retaliated against their foreign boss who insulted China). After screening the samples, a total of 4921 (for D13) and 4864 (for D23) valid data were obtained, respectively. Study 2 was a real-life event-based survey with 450 participants. In Study 2, we further investigated the relationship between social class and altruistic punishment under two forms (direct vs. indirect punishment). Study 3 was a 2 (social class: low/high) × 2 (punishment cost: low/high) between-participants design, and the main purpose was to demonstrate that punishment cost may play a moderating role in the process of how social class affects altruistic punishment. Based on the survey data, Study 4 proposed a conditional process model with belief in a just world as a mediating variable and punishment cost as a moderator variable, hereby providing an explanatory framework for the impact of social class on altruistic punishment.

Study 1 showed that after controlling for educational attainment and annual income, participants’ subjective social class significantly positively predicts their altruistic punishment. Study 2 demonstrated that the above results hold in direct punishment, but not in indirect punishment. The results of Study 3 showed that when the punishment cost increases, punitive behavior decreases overall, but the downward trend is more pronounced for lower-class participants. The results of Study 4 further demonstrated that social class affects altruistic punishment indirectly mainly through belief in a just world when punishment cost is low, whereas social class directly affects altruistic punishment when punishment cost is high.

To sum up, we have found evidence that upper-class (vs. lower-class) individuals are more willing to engage in altruistic punishment in economic games and real-life contexts, implying that in a modern society increasingly stratified along class lines, people’s social background should not be ignored in the research of altruistic punishment. In addition, the results of this article also prove that on the one hand, altruistic punishment is at least partly a non-strategic sanction, because one force that drives people to punish is to protect their just belief, and on the other hand cost-benefit based considerations are not completely absent in altruistic punishment.

Key words: altruistic punishment, social class, belief in a just world, punishment cost