In this paper, we experimentally investigate the effect of a previous experience on third-party punishment decisions for the experienced situation. Third-party punishment serves as an enforcement mechanism of social norms and depends on emotions, therefore, it is important to understand how these social norm perceptions and emotions arise. We posit that a previous experience plays a crucial role hereby. We design an online experiment, in which we measure the difference in the willingness to punish a dictator in a dictator game. We use a between-subjects design, with an identical punishment stage and identical wealth of punishing subjects across treatments, but differing in whether subjects experience the dictator game before as a receiver, observe it or do not have any information. We find that experiencing a low transfer changes both norm perceptions and emotions. Most dominantly is the change in empirical expectations especially after experiencing or observing a transfer of 0. Empirical expectations are the main driver for punishment decisions, yet less for females, whose personal norms are more important. After a transfer of 0, norms are shifted downwards and punishment decisions are lower. At the same time, experiencing a low transfer arouses negative emotions, increases punishment decisions, and hence can cancel out the norm effect depending on the intensity of the change of norms and emotions. We therefore find evidence both for norm-based and emotion-based third-party punishment that is triggered after an experience and observation.
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