A large body of experimental research has sought to determine whether punishment is motivated more by instrumental considerations (deterrence, incapacitation, etc.) or by retributive urges. The various studies, although limited in important ways, have generally pointed to retribution as the primary factor in driving penal decisions in response to hypothetical fact patterns.
Add to this body of research an interesting new study Eyal Aharoni and Alan Fridlund, “Punishment Without Reason: Isolating Retribution in Lay Punishment of Criminal Offenders,” 18 Psych., Pub. Pol’y & L. 599 (2012).
Aharoni and Fridlund presented subjects with various versions of a hypothetical homicide case and then asked how much the killer should be made to suffer and what sentence should be imposed. (more…)