Van Prooijen, J.-W., & Lam, J. (2007). Retributive justice and social categorizations: The perceived fairness of punishment depends on intergroup status. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1244-1255.


In the current research, the authors investigate the influence of intergroup status and social categorizations on retributive justice judgments, that is, the extent to which observers perceive punishment as fair. Building on social identity theory and the model of subjective group dynamics, it is predicted that when the ingroup has higher status than the outgroup, people are relatively less concerned about punishment of an outgroup offender than when the ingroup has lower status than the outgroup. Two experiments revealed that participants are more punitive towards an ingroup than an outgroup offender when ingroup status is high but not when ingroup status is low. Furthermore, in correspondence with our line of reasoning, this finding emerged because participants were less punitive towards outgroup offenders when ingroup status is high than when ingroup status was low. It is concluded that the perceived fairness of punishment depends on the offender’s social categorization and intergroup status.