Chair of Social Psychology
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Offenders from your own group and offenders from minority-groups: How group membership affects punishment

When asked about the appropriate form and intensity of a punishment for a transgression committed by a given offender, there is an interesting effect: people say the offender should be punished more harshly, if he or she stems from the same group as the person surveyed (“black-sheep-effect”). This “black-sheep-effect” seems to be based on the perception of an in-group offender as being more threatening for the normative structure of a group than an out-group offender.

However, there is an alternate interpretation of this effect: Under certain conditions, the out-group offender is punished more leniently than the in-group offender, because lenient punishment toward an out-group member offers the in-group members a way to project the group as being unprejudiced. In surveys we investigated the conditions under which “patronizing leniency” appears.

Selected Publications:

Braun, J. & Gollwitzer, M. (2016). The patronizing character and status-preserving function of leniency for outgroup offenders. British Journal of Social Psychology, 55, 263-278.

Kugler, M. B., Funk, F., Braun, J., Gollwitzer, M., Kay, A. C., & Darley, J. M. (2013). Differences in punitiveness across three cultures: A test of American exceptionalism in justice attitudes. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 103, 1071-1113.

Braun, J., & Gollwitzer, M. (2012). Leniency for out-group offenders. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 883-892.

Gollwitzer, M., Keller, L., & Braun, J. (2012). Retributive punishment in a social context. In E. Kals & J. Maes (Eds.), Justice and conflicts: Theoretical and empirical contributions (pp. 169-196). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

Gollwitzer, M., & Keller, L. (2010). What you did only matters if you are one of us: Offenders’ group membership moderates the effect of criminal history on punishment severity. Social Psychology, 41, 20-26.


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