Punishment of offenders is one of the most universal features of human behavior. Throughout history, ranging across a multitude of cultures including the ancient hunter-gatherers to our contemporary courts of law, it is extraordinarily common for people to punish offenders within their groups. By the same token, it's important to understand that punishment is not only restricted to criminal offenders, but actually emerges within all spheres of our social life,
including: corporations, our public institutions, in traffic, during sports matches, in our schools, and more. Punishment strongly influences what we think, how we feel, and what we do.
The Moral Punishment Instinct asserts that people possess this exact instinct within themselves: a hard-wired tendency to aggress against those who violate the norms of their group. We have evolved this instinct because of its power to control our behavior by curbing selfishness and free-riding, thereby providing incentives to stimulate the mutual cooperation that our ancient ancestors needed in order to survive the challenging natural environments.
In this book, Jan-Willem van Prooijen methodically describes how punishment originates from moral emotions, stimulates cooperation, and shapes the social life of human beings. Guided by a host of recognizable and relatable examples, this book illuminates how the moral punishment instinct manifests itself among a variety of modern human cultures, children, the hunter-gatherer tribes, and even non-human animals-all while accounting for the role of this instinct in religion, war, racial bias,
restorative justice, gossip, torture, and radical terrorism.