Often times at mediation, the conversation goes to the topic of what a jury might do in the same situation. It turns out that a jury as a third party would do something very different than what a plaintiff as the alleged victim would do. According to a study by New York University researchers we’re more likely to punish wrongdoing as a third party to a non-violent offense than when we’re victimized by it. The findings offer insights into how juries differ from plaintiffs in seeking to restore justice.
According to the researchers, victims, rather than seeking to punish an offender, instead seek to restore what they’ve lost. “In our legal system, individuals are presented with the option to punish the transgressor or not, but such a narrow choice set may fail to capture alternative preferences for restoring justice,” observes Oriel FeldmanHall, the study’s lead author and a post-doctoral fellow in NYU’s Department of Psychology. “In this study we show that victims actually prefer other forms of justice restoration, such as compensation to the victim, rather than punishment of the transgressor.”
“These results differ from the majority of findings on social punishment,” adds co-author Jay Van Bavel, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology. “Notably, they show that third parties make decisions on justice that are at odds with the wishes of victims.” The study relied on a a experiments involving “the Ultimatum Game,” a common method used in psychology and economic research that gauges how people respond to unfair monetary offers.
The results from this experiment showed that when a person was a victim of unfairness, they were most likely to choose an option to compensate rather than the option to punish. However, when the subject was not the victim, the option most chosen was the option to punish the wrongdoer. These findings showed that when given a choice people actually prefer compensation to punishment when they think they have been wronged.
According to the researchers, people show little desire to punish the transgressor when directly affected, however, when deciding to restore justice on behalf of another people become highly punitive, applying the harshest form of punishment.
This has significant implications for mediation and negotiations. Many times some parties may look down on the issue of compensation thinking that the only issue is money. Understanding that the victims may have a sociological need to be compensated rather than punish might help the parties better understand the other side.
Moreover, understanding the motivation behind the settlement negotiations can help parties find other ways to compensate and meet the needs of the plaintiff or apparent victim.
Journal Reference:
Oriel FeldmanHall, Peter Sokol-Hessner, Jay J. Van Bavel, Elizabeth A. Phelps. Fairness violations elicit greater punishment on behalf of another than for oneself. Nature Communications, 2014; 5: 5306 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6306
Cite This Page:
New York University. “Compensation and punishment: ‘Justice’ depends on whether or not we’re a victim.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141028122422.htm>.New York University. “Compensation and punishment: ‘Justice’ depends on whether or not we’re a victim.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141028122422.htm>.