Motives for Punishing Powerful vs. Prestigious Offenders: The Moderating Role of Group Identity

Kyriaki Fousiani*, Jan-Willem Van Prooijen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Status can be seen as power over valued resources, or as prestige that lies in the eyes of the beholder. In the present research we examine how power versus prestige influence observers’ punishing motives. Possession of power implies the capacity to harm and elicits threat, and therefore should trigger stronger incapacitative motives for punishing an offender. In contrast, prestige signals the observer’s admiration of the target, and therefore should elicit a strong motivation to help an offender reintegrate into society. Studies 1 and 2 manipulated an offender’s status (power vs. prestige vs. control) and group identity (ingroup vs. outgroup). Supporting our hypotheses, both studies revealed that observers had stronger incapacitative motivations towards powerful as opposed to prestigious offenders, particularly when the
offender came from the ingroup. Study 2 also showed that observers had stronger restorative motives towards a prestigious as opposed to powerful offender. Contrary to expectations, group identity did not moderate the effect of status on observer’s restorative motives. Study 3 manipulated power and prestige separately and showed that power elicits stronger incapacitative motives through ingroup threat and perceived capacity to harm. We discuss the
theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-747
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date18-Feb-2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2022


  • status as power vs. prestige
  • group identity
  • incapacitative and restorative motives for punishment
  • offense

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