Punishment is expected to have an educative, behaviour-controlling effect on the transgressor. Yet, this effect often remains unattained. Here, we test the hypothesis that transgressors' inferences about punisher motives crucially shape transgressors' post-punishment attitudes and behaviour. As such, we give primacy to the social and relational dimensions of punishment in explicating how sanctions affect outcomes. Across four studies using different methodologies (N = 1189), our findings suggest that (a) communicating punishment respectfully increases transgressor perceptions that the punisher is trying to repair the relationship between the transgressor and their group (relationship-oriented motive) and reduces perceptions of harm-oriented and self-serving motives, and that (b) attributing punishment to relationship-oriented (vs. harm/self-oriented, or even victim-oriented) motives increases prosocial attitudes and behaviour. This research consolidates and extends various theoretical perspectives on interactions in justice settings, providing suggestions for how best to deliver sanctions to transgressors.
- procedural justice