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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Retributivism is a deontological theory of punishment that calls for the deserved punishment of a guilty offender in proportion with his moral blameworthiness for a past offense. It is often referred to as punishment based on ‘just deserts’, and it contrasts with consequentialist theories that ground punishment in its potentially beneficial future consequences. Rich philosophical debate surrounds the appropriateness of retributivism. From a psychological perspective, the key question concerns whether retributivism underlies ordinary individuals' desire for the legal punishment of wrongdoers. Past research in social psychology has answered this question in the affirmative. However, much of this existing evidence requires a new look, because it is premised on a fundamental ambiguity. We review alternative evidence for the existence of retributive motives from lesser‐known correlational studies, and from studies of the punishment of companies and animals. We also explore the links between retributivism and restorative justice—an alternative justice approach that focuses on repairing the harms caused by an offense. Although often cast as diametrically opposed to one another, retributive and restorative justice in fact share more in common than is often supposed. Both are premised on notions of deservingness, and their goals can be achieved by the same action (i.e., retributive punishment can restore victims). In all areas of the research we review, more work is needed to better understand: retributivism directed at human offenders, the commonalities and discontinuities between retributive and restorative justice, and how the notion of desert structures moral life and thought more generally. WIREs Cogn Sci 2014, 5:561–572. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1301 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Emotion and Motivation Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making Philosophy > Value

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Philosophy > Value
Psychology > Emotion and Motivation
Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making

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