This dissertation explores the role of altruistic punishment, the act of punishing outsiders perceived to harm members of one's group at a personal cost, in explaining individual motivations to participate in inter-group violence. It first develops a social theory of this type punishment. This theory argues that an egalitarian social logic may be key to understanding motivations of parochial altruism, and that one's social environment may influence thresholds of anger needed to induce punishment behavior. Empirically, it conducts two survey-experimental studies. The first experiment utilizes subject partisan identity in the context of American politics and hypothetical acts of violence to study altruistic punishment behaviors among two different populations in the US. The second experiment utilizes a comparative sample of American, German, and Kurdish participants to assess whether priming for anger tied to acts of political violence by outsiders against their respective in-group increases support for a hypothetical in-group "punisher" of these outsiders. The results of these studies offer two key findings: (1) anger induced costly punishment of outgroup perpetrators may be conditional on egalitarian attitudes; (2) this relationship is contextual and varies across population. The findings cautiously suggest two conclusions. First, there may be evolutionary and neurological mechanisms that promote participation in inter-group conflict and that superficial characteristics such as ethnicity, religion, and ideology may work in tandem with biological factors. Second, it suggests that social and political environments may be useful for modulating, or exacerbating, the role of anger in the decision to participate in inter-group conflict activities.
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Tezcur, Gunes Murat
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Besaw, Clayton, "Altruistic Punishment Theory and Inter-Group Violence" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6019.