Acts of negative reciprocity can generate destructive sequences of reprisal. In baseball, hitting a batter with a pitch generally represents a vicarious form of retribution on behalf of a teammate. To understand a practice prone to escalation, we examine how dyadic relationships and team characteristics influence punitive aggression during games. Constructing a suite of indicator variables with data from two decades of play enabled us to track the shifting state of relational accounting between opposing teams. Even though motives to engage in further retribution may exist, logistic regression establishes that curbs limit escalation beyond an initial exchange sequence during games. Aspects of the dyadic relationship between a pitcher and his teammate enhance the intention to take vicarious retribution but relationships with the opposing batter exert a countervailing force against aggression. Our findings yield insights about the origin and evolution of intergroup conflicts with implications for theories of conflict and for organizational practice.
Keywords: conflict, retribution, relationships