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Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Psychology of Disproportionate Punishment

Daniel Yudkin
Scientific American
Originally published October 18, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

These studies suggest that certain features of the human mind are prone to “intergroup bias” in punishment. While our slow, thoughtful deliberative side may desire to maintain strong standards of fairness and equality, our more basic, reflexive side may be prone to hostility and aggression to anyone deemed an outsider.

Indeed, this is consistent with what we know about the evolutionary heritage of our species, which spent thousands of years in tightly knit tribal groups competing for scarce resources on the African savannah. Intergroup bias may be tightly woven up in the fabric of everyone’s DNA, ready to emerge under conditions of hurry or stress.

But the picture of human relationships is not all bleak. Indeed, another line of research in which I am involved, led by Avital Mentovich, sheds light on the ways we might transcend the biases that lurk beneath the surface of the psyche.

The article is here.