Society relies on third parties to adjudicate remedies for norm violations, but group membership and social pressure may affect how these third parties judge norm violators. Using a modified third-party punishment paradigm built off a dictator game (DG), we explore how being part of a group affects the way third parties punish malefactors (i.e., engage in altruistic intervention behavior), and further explore whether gain and loss contexts can regulate the influence of group information on the third-party punishment. In three studies, we investigate how each of the following might affect an adjudicating third party’s resolution of norm violations: (1) adjudicating alone or in the presence of an observing group, (2) adjudicating in the presence of groups of various sizes, and (3) the social pressure to conform with the judgments of other “peer” judges. Our results showed that third parties punished more forcibly in the presence of a group, and this result occurred not only in the gain context but also in the loss context (Study 1, N = 50). Third parties punished dictators more harshly when observed by smaller than larger groups, this time predominantly in the loss context (Study 2, N = 50). Finally, third parties generally acted by the judicial decisions of fellow cohort members, conforming most with peer judgments in the loss context (Study 3, N = 50). This research provides specific, descriptive evidence of how group information impacts third-party altruistic interventions to maintain social norms, broadening the horizon for understanding third-party punishment and involvement in social norm regulation.
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