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

Three Ways to Find (and be) a Faithful Partner

A partner who is faithful, all other things being equal, is one who will make you happier. This 3-part checklist will help you spot the danger signs.

Setting Limits When Your Child Ignores You

Your child is ignoring your limit because he needs help with the big feelings or unmet needs that are driving his behavior.

Human Information Gathering: How Can We Proceed?

The behavioural and brain sciences can transform forensic, policing, judicial, and intelligence practices, and enhance operational effectiveness ethically.

Even Young Children Avoid Mean People

By Art Markman Ph.D. on April 08, 2016 Ulterior Motives
In order to enforce the norms and values of our culture, adults will give up resources to punish other people. How early does this develop?

“The Revenant” as Ghost Story

When I see a movie that really affects me, I want to know why.

The Embryology of Human Development

Human motivation and behavior are powered by our affects initially, with language and cognition quickly becoming part of the complex process.

3 Mistakes Parents Make When Their Kids Bully Them

Tired of fighting with your kid? Consider new parenting choices to get your relationship back on track.

Punishment Might Signal Trustworthiness, but Maybe...

By Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. on March 10, 2016 Pop Psych
New research claims that the function of third-party punishment is to build trust. That same research doesn't support that claim.

Our Enduring Love Affair With Dr. Hannibal Lecter

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on March 07, 2016 Wicked Deeds
Like our favorite Hollywood monsters and boogey men, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is tantalizing to us because he is goal oriented, devoid of conscience and almost unstoppable.

The Psychology of Naughtiness

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on February 23, 2016 A Sideways View
Naughty people enjoy breaking the rules and challenging authority. Should we punish or promote naughtiness?

Moral Responsibility and the Strike Back Emotion

By Gregg D. Caruso Ph.D. on February 21, 2016 Unjust Deserts
Where does the belief in moral responsibility come from?

Homicide Fact: Race Matters

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on February 15, 2016 Wicked Deeds
According to the data, the most likely victim and perpetrator of murder in the U.S. is a young, black male, approximately twenty-one years of age.

Hunting for Death

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on February 15, 2016 A Swim in Denial
Justice Scalia's death has raised a political storm. But the storm is psychological too, and it's battering all of us.

The Surprising First Step in Effective Child Discipline

Programs to help parents overcome child defiance don't usually start with star charts or time-outs but rather the surprisingly simple but tricky skill of paying attention.

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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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?