Retribution and emotional regulation: The effects of time delay in angry economic interactions

Cynthia S. Wang*, Niro Sivanathan, Jayanth Narayanan, Deshani B. Ganegoda, Monika Bauer, Galen V. Bodenhausen, Keith Murnighan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Individuals driven by negative emotions often punish non-cooperators at a cost to themselves. The current research demonstrates that, although time delays can attenuate this effect, they can also produce unintended consequences. Five experiments investigated the effects of time delays and thought patterns on punishments in direct and third party interactions. The results show that time delays decreased punishment (Experiment 1) by reducing negative emotions (Experiments 2A and 2B). However, thought patterns during a delay were crucially important (Experiments 3A and 3B): People who engaged in a distraction task punished less; people who engaged in affective rumination punished more; and people who engaged in cognitive reappraisal were unaffected by a delay. These differences meant that, after a time delay, affective ruminators administered greater punishments than cognitive reappraisers or distracted individuals. Implications of these findings for managing punitive impulses via time delays are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-54
Number of pages9
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Anger
  • Emotional regulation
  • Retribution
  • Rumination
  • Time delay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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