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On punishment and well-being



The existence of punishment opportunities has been shown to cause efficiency in some public goods experiments to increase considerably. In this paper we ask whether punishment also has a downside in terms of process dissatisfaction. We conduct an experiment to study the conjecture that an environment with strong punishment possibilities may lead to higher material payoffs but lower subjective well-being, in comparison with weaker punishment or no punishment possibilities at all. The more general motivation for our study stems from the notion that people's subjective well-being may be affected by the institutional environment they find themselves in. Our findings show that harsher punishment possibilities lead to significantly higher well-being, controlling for earnings and other relevant variables. These results complement the evidence on the neural basis of altruistic punishment reported in De Quervain et al. (2004).

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