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

Who Killed JonBenet? Part 2: The Ransom Note

By Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D. on February 23, 2017 in Evil Deeds
A forensic psychologist breaks down the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note.
Paul Nunez

Are Some Scientists Serious About Denying Free Will?

A brief look at the issues of consciousness and free will.

Controlling Your Partner Is Illegal, But Not in the U.S.

By Lisa Aronson Fontes Ph.D. on February 17, 2017 in Invisible Chains
Domestic violence victims in the U.S. have less protection than in some other countries. Laws in England now make controlling a partner illegal.
Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock

In Praise of Healthy Revenge

By Jeanne Safer Ph.D. on February 08, 2017 in The Last Taboos
Getting even can be good for you.


By Ana Nogales, Ph.D. on February 07, 2017 in Family Secrets
Forgiveness is difficult.

Researching Terrorism From the Field

By Scott Atran Ph.D. on January 31, 2017 in In Gods We Trust
The many challenges of countering extremism.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

By David Ludden Ph.D. on January 24, 2017 in Talking Apes
The Miranda ruling was intended to protect the innocent from making false confessions. But does it work?

Some Individuals Kill for Their Own Sadistic Pleasure

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on January 21, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
Power/control killers are patient and they kill their victims slowly in order to prolong their own sadistic pleasure. They derive satisfaction from the suffering of their victims.

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child?

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on January 18, 2017 in Media Spotlight
Does sparing the rod spoil the child? New research explores how corporal punishment and harsh parenting can lead to later behavioral problems in children.

Who Killed JonBenet?

By Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D. on January 18, 2017 in Evil Deeds
What can forensic psychology tell us about the still unsolved JonBenet Ramsey case?
Krystine I. Batcho

Beyond Hate: Healing in the Aftermath of Violence

Defeating hate is one of the most pressing issues of our time. How can we move beyond the impact of hate-filled violence?
K. Ramsland

The Measure of Cunning

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on January 15, 2017 in Shadow Boxing
We have many instruments for measuring IQ and personality traits, even psychopathy, but we need a precise instrument to learn more about criminal street smarts.

Why Psychopaths Are Effective Killers

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on January 01, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
When psychopaths commit a homicide, their killings likely will be planned and purposeful—that is, organized, and not committed in the heat of passion.

Justice Moves Slowly Against Durst in Mob Daughter’s Murder

By Cathy Scott on December 31, 2016 in Crime, She Writes
Will New York real estate heir Robert Durst be convicted in the murder of his best friend Susan Berman? The evidence to be presented in court appears strong.

The Case Against Zero Tolerance in Schools

A recent study shows that a brief intervention encouraging teachers to respond with empathy to misbehaving students was able to reduce middle school suspension rates by half.

How to Create Suspense

By Sheila Kohler on December 22, 2016 in Dreaming for Freud
How do you keep a reader reading a text?

Physical Punishment and Violence

To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, if hitting a child is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. If we truly want to decrease violence in our society, not hitting our children is a good place.

If You View Empathy as a Sign of Weakness, Think Again

Unless justice and fairness are signs of weakness, people's perceptions of empathy as such could not be more wrong.

To Punish or to Teach?

How we handle mistakes can make a difference.

The Truth About Lying

By Stuart Shanker DPhil on November 22, 2016 in Self-Reg
Lying is the quintessential example of misbehaviour, but confabulating is a stress behaviour.


By Glenn C. Altschuler Ph.D. on November 22, 2016 in This Is America
Monsters, real and imagined, take shape from the interplay between the inherent fears of human nature and a specific historical context.

Why Prisoners and Ex-Felons Should Retain the Right to Vote

By Gregg D. Caruso Ph.D. on November 06, 2016 in Unjust Deserts
Should 6.1 million citizens be barred from voting on election day?
K. Ramsland

This Week in Murder

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on November 06, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
A new textbook in forensic psychology that focuses on homicide offers an updated and substantive reference.

Autism, Violence, and the Media

By Jill Del Pozzo, MA, and Lindsay Cherneski, MA on November 03, 2016 in Fractured Minds
There is no scientific evidence that autism, by itself, increases the risk of violence. In fact, individuals with ASD are less likely to engage in criminal behavior.

In Pakistan, Schizophrenia Denialism Is a Death Sentence

By Joe Pierre M.D. on October 28, 2016 in Psych Unseen
Pakistan has ruled that schizophrenia isn't a mental illness, paving the way for the execution of a mentally ill prisoner. Could something similar happen in the U.S.?
Amanda Howard

A Curious History of Hanging

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on October 25, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
Amanda Howard compiles a sordid history of hanging-by-rope, with stories that have visceral punch.

Death Penalty May Not Bring Peace to Victims' Families

Does the death penalty provide true justice and closure to victims?

Psychological Tactics Used by Human Traffickers

Psychological manipulation tactics are critical to traffickers’ success, and coercion, manipulation and psychological abuse are often more powerful weapons than physical violence.

Trump's Failed Apology

By Beverly Engel L.M.F.T. on October 14, 2016 in The Compassion Chronicles
Why it is so important for Trump (and all of us) to give meaningful apologies