All About Punishment

An eye for an eye is one of the strongest human instincts, but reciprocating harm is not always the best course of action. Punishment sometimes works to condition people not to repeat misdeeds, and threats of negative repercussions can act as disincentives, but our ability to rise above our base instinct for revenge and judge each situation objectively and with an eye toward rehabilitation is one of the highest achievements of humanity and of civilization.

Recent Posts on Punishment

Does Psychology Explain North Korea's Recent Missile Launch?

...the essential psychology of small states' nuclear proliferation is completely different from the 'second strike' deterrence that pertained between the US and the Soviet Union...

Blake Griffin's Mea Culpa

How Blake Griffin could earn back the trust of fans and supporters after being a bully

When "Fun" Gets Racist, What Should Schools Do?

Five ideas for creating the right conditions for safe and appropriate outcomes.

Clues To The Function Of Moralistic Punishment

By Jesse Marczyk on January 19, 2016 Pop Psych
Experiments on anonymous and public punishment give us insights about adaptive morality.

The Revenge Myth

Revenge is appealing. Someone hurts us and we're convinced that revenge will make us feel whole again. Just thinking about revenge can trigger positive emotions.

What Is Anger? Part II

Recently, we have been investigating two of our most important innate affects, Interest (curiosity) and Anger. We explored Interest in the May-October 2015 Newsletters.

What Is Anger?

Currently, we are discussing two of our most important innate affects, interest (curiosity) and anger. In the last several newsletters, we have examined interest in some detail.

Oh, How I Long for the Good Ole Days

By Kathryn Seifert Ph.D. on December 27, 2015 Stop The Cycle
The simpler life of decades and centuries past has much to endear it to our hearts and much that is best left in the past causing us to both dream and cringe.

Star Wars: The Creation of Vader

Star Wars I-III answer the question: how did little Ani turn into the evil Darth Vader? As a developmental psychologist, I rewatched them to find out. Here's what I learned.

Forgiving Your Partner Is as Good for You as It Is for Them

New research suggests that withholding forgiveness may be self-destructive.

Another Reason Why You Should Not Spank Your Child

Attempting to discourage inappropriate behavior? Spanking is detrimental and ineffective. The reason is that you are conditioning your child to pair morality with violence. And

Justice Without Retribution

By Gregg D. Caruso Ph.D. on December 14, 2015 Unjust Deserts
Is justice without retribution possible?

Pamela Smart: From Cheerleader to Celebrity Monster

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on December 14, 2015 Wicked Deeds
Sensationalized media depictions of Smart before, during and after her 1991 trial have transformed her into a celebrity monster in the popular culture.

Preferences For Equality?

By Jesse Marczyk on December 07, 2015 Pop Psych
Recent research has claimed that humans have a preference for equality when punishing others. I happen to think that such a conclusion is overstated from the data on offer.

Early Education

This month we conclude our discussion of education with “Education – Part II.” The emphasis is how to enhance education by mobilizing the positive affects.


Educational philosophy and policy have spawned a massive literature and a huge variety of alternative methods. So what does education and educate mean?

Female Serial Killers Are No Myth

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on November 23, 2015 Wicked Deeds
The news and entertainment media focus on and sensationalize the acts of violence and torture perpetrated by male serial killers. Although the graphic images of male serial killers sell countless books and movie tickets, they also perpetuate the myth that all serial killers are demented men.

Inequality Aversion, Evolution, and Reproduction

By Jesse Marczyk on November 21, 2015 Pop Psych
What determines how quickly a gene spreads throughout a population is how well it reproduces itself, relative to its competitors. What does this tell us about how we respond to inequality, and the shape of cognitive mechanisms more generally?

Psychology Of How War With Islamic State Becomes A Just War

Professor Fotion points out that another ancient Chinese philosopher, Mo Tzu (470 – 391 BC) distinguished between three kinds of war, which again ominously, but unerringly, predicts modern hostilities in the Middle East. Mo Tzu contends that any analysis of whether a war is ‘just’ or not depends on whether you are engaged in a war of aggression, punishment or self-defence.

Prisoner 819 did a bad thing…Prisoner 819 did a bad thing…

By Kevin Bennett on November 16, 2015 Modern Minds
What happens when you lock a group of college males in the basement for a two-week experiment? Find out this week on DVD.

Addiction and Rescue

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on November 05, 2015 A Swim in Denial
In video clip on Facebook a presidential campaigner promises prospective voters in a New Hampshire tavern that he favors treatment for addiction. Within a day or two, more than two million people called attention to the clip. What's the magic?

When Praise is Punishment

Praise May Not Work Quite the Way Parents Hope

Wine, Ink, Women and Revenge

"He’d done something permanent to my idea of myself and I wanted to do the same thing to him” she explained.

Inside the Mind of a School Shooter

What may cause a person to become a school shooter is when his mind becomes so disorganized that the three brains that make up his triune brain react by becoming "locked and loaded" and focused on a mission to get in and get even with a world that caused him to feel put down and pushed away.

Cooperation and the public good

Social scientists differ about the relative virtues of top-down verses peer-to-peer actions to secure public goods like clean water and air and safe foods and pharmaceuticals. Recent decision experiments suggest that in modern societies, both dimensions are necessary, and that they’re complementary to each other.

Your Fitbit Is Ruining Your Relationship With Your Body

By Nicole Avena Ph.D. on September 28, 2015 Food Junkie
Why obsessively tracking your health isn't so healthy after all

Why can't Batman beat the Joker?

By E. Paul Zehr Ph.D. on September 26, 2015 Black Belt Brain
Batman exists in a grim reality and a big part of that reality is the physical toll on the human playing the part of superhero. That toll is inflicted repeatedly by the bad guys he faces and none has been front and center for the repeated toll like the Joker. Why is the Joker so hard to beat?

Why Some of Us Commit Romantic Revenge

What happens when someone cheats? Is revenge the answer? For some people, yes.

Rehabilitation Benefits Young Offenders

Should youth be put in solitary confinement? The evidence suggests not.

Harsh Justice

By Michael Cholbi Ph.D. on September 13, 2015 Ethics in Question
It seems natural to think that the harsher the punishment, the more it will deter crime. But some recent studies suggest that isn't the case. Here some tools from economics and philosophy are used to explore why.