Punishing and compensating others at your own expense: The role of empathic concern on reactions to distributive injustice


Marijke C. Leliveld, Department of Marketing, P.O. Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands.

E-mail: M.C.Leliveld@rug.nl


When confronted with violations of justice, people may be motivated not only to punish the violator, but also to compensate the victim. Whereas prior research has primarily concentrated on the question of when people are willing to punish, we provide a more comprehensive picture by also studying the willingness to compensate and by assessing the moderating role of empathic concern. Study 1 introduces the altruistic compensation game and shows that especially high empathic (compared to low empathic) people are willing to give up parts of their own resources to financially compensate the victims of distributive injustice. Study 2 completes the picture by directly comparing altruistic compensation with altruistic punishment. The study showed that high empathic people decided to compensate the victim, but low empathic people decided to punish the offender. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.