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Pride and punishment: Entitled people's self‐promoting values motivate hierarchy‐restoring retribution


European Journal of Social Psychology

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What is the purpose of punishment? The current research shows that for entitled people—those with inflated self‐worth—justice is about maintaining societal hierarchies. Entitled people more strongly hold self‐enhancing values (power and achievement; Studies 1 and 3). They are also more likely, when thinking about justice for offenders, to adopt a hierarchy‐based justice orientation: Perceptions that crime threatens hierarchies, motives to restore those hierarchies, and support for retribution (Studies 2 and 3). Further, the relationship of entitlement to justice orientation is mediated by self‐enhancing values when entitlement is measured (Study 3) and manipulated (Studies 4, 5 and 6). Together these studies suggest that entitlement—and the resultant preoccupation with one's status—facilitates a view of justice as a hierarchy‐based transaction: one where criminal offenders and their victims exchange power and status. These findings reveal the self‐enhancing and hierarchy‐focused nature of entitlement, as well as the roots of retribution in concerns about status, power, and hierarchies.