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

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.

Is Spanking Bad for Children and Families?

By Rebecca Coffey on September 09, 2015 The Bejeezus Out of Me
Since 1997 studies have consistently shown that spanking doesn’t have much of a positive effect on behavior. Meanwhile, it can harm parent-child communication and can lead a child into patterns of anxiety and aggression. So why do so many of us do it? What "no harm" and "good for them in the long run" myths have we bought into?

Political Correctness Is Bad, When Applied Incorrectly

By Noam Shpancer Ph.D. on September 02, 2015 Insight Therapy
Trigger Warning: This piece may deeply frustrate those who feast on political correctness hysteria

Physical Punishment—and Violence

Physical punishment is damaging to the mental health of children and the societies in which we live. There are alternatives that build on children's ability to integrate feelings, language, and cognition.

The Enduring, Ghoulish Legend of Lizzie Borden

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on August 31, 2015 Wicked Deeds
The story of Lizzie Borden has taken on mythical proportions over the years. Despite her acquittal in criminal court in the nineteenth century for the murders of her father and stepmother, Lizzie has always been considered guilty by the public as a result of ghoulish media and cultural representations of her.

We need a folksy free will

Andrew Monroe, who is an expert on moral psychology and folk beliefs about free will responds to an earlier post on 'Free Will Depletion.'

Women Held for 30 years in Slavery - 'Traumatic Entrapment'?

Three women rescued from horrific conditions after allegedly being held as slaves for 30 years, are described by the British Metropolitan Police's human trafficking unit as 'highly traumatised'.

Does the Impulse to Gossip Have a Silver Lining for Markets?

The urge to let others know when you've been taken advantage of, and instinctively knowing that almost all of us have it, may play a big role in helping markets to function well--most recently including ones relying on online reviews such as eBay, airbnb, and trip advisor. I describe a novel laboratory experiment that demonstrates the tendency to tell in its purest form.

The Rise of Green Prison Programs

Can exposure to nature help reduce crime?

Woody, Again - Irrational Man

The talented Woody Allen has entertained fans with a new film each year for nearly half a century. But just when his career is at its prime, the reprisal of old, denied, and never proved molestation charges by his still bitter ex-lover Mia Farrow and company has left his personal reputation newly tarnished, and threatens to dent the box office appeal of his films.

Is the Death Penalty Dying Out?

Is there still a need to continue studying the death penalty?

Women We Love to Hate—and Why We Hate Them

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on August 10, 2015 Wicked Deeds
When a pretty, young, white woman is charged with premeditated murder it creates intense curiosity because their alleged crimes violate sacred norms of gender, race, and even motherhood. Their trials become media events because the public is shocked and outraged by the actions of these norm violating females.

Why Was the Movie Theater Killer Spared the Death Penalty?

Why was the insanity plea nullified in the movie theater killings in Aurora, Colorado? The answer is simple - because the carnage was so horrendous that there was too much public pressure in favor of the death penalty. There was no way the insanity plea would be allowed. Nonetheless, Holmes was clearly and incontrovertibly psychotic and delusional.

A Punished Dog Is an Aggressive Dog

Physically punishing human children leads to higher levels of aggression and data now shows that the same holds for dogs.

End Psychology's Role in National Security Interrogations

Should psychologists continue to participate in national security interrogations as a means to keep such practices "safe, effective, and legal" or does such involvement violate APA ethics and policy?

Affects, Language, and Cognition

For many months, we have been exploring the three pillars of human development: Affects (Feelings), Language, and Cognition. We have tried to make the case that there is a revolution in our understanding of human development. I have suggested that this revolution has tremendous potential for enhancing development.

Life in the Mushpot

Sometimes it's OK when you don't get to play. Sometimes, not so much.

The 21st-Century Way to Punish Kids

A new parent-child reward-punishment dynamic centered on technology.

Behavior Differences Between Smaller and Larger Dogs

Research shows that there are significant differences between the behaviors of smaller and larger dogs. Some of these differences have to do with the behaviors of their owners.

Am I Being Punished?

If we were punished for every mistake, it would for sure be a depressing world. None of us gets what we deserve, and that is usually a good thing.

A Very Dark and Sad Day for Psychology

Many people trust psychologists with their emotional, behavioral, educational and relational health and well-being. They must be confident that psychologists always do the right thing and follow their ethical principles without exception. It may take some time for psychology to rebuild some of that trust after the release of the Hoffman Report on torture.

Dogs and the Death Penalty

Serious attention is being given to the human death penalty right now—both its overall constitutionality and morality, and also the particular methods by which it is carried out. This is a good opportunity to reexamine the use of death penalty language in relation to companion animals and assess whether it helps or harms.

Parenting Without Punishment: A Humanist Perspective, Part 3

Tragically, since recorded history corporal punishment has been the “default” system for disciplining children. In the past century, however, evidence demonstrating its ineffectiveness has mounted to the degree that it can no longer—whether ethically or pragmatically—be justified. It’s therefore regrettable that today it's still common in the U.S.

Orange is the New Bleak: What the SHU Can Do to Your Brain

By Jordan Gaines Lewis on July 03, 2015 Brain Babble
What happens to the inmates of Litchfield Penitentiary when they're sent to the SHU? Not much; that's why it's so terrible.