Everybody deals with this phenomenon daily but I had my curiousity piqued when someone claimed that punishing the many for the actions of the few was just called "group punishment." Group Punishment is simply punishing a large group of people.

Is there a specific word for when a large group is punished because of the actions of the few? Such as in the following:

Little Jimmy wasn't happy when the entire class was forced to work through recess because of 3 kids getting into a fight yesterday.

closed as off-topic by tchrist Aug 13 '17 at 1:10

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  • There are a lot of phrases to describe this situation including "one bad apple spoils the barrel" and my personal favorite "a little crap spoils the whole brownie" – Zach Saucier Dec 28 '15 at 21:56
  • @ZachSaucier You can just eat the parts without the crap. – Viziionary Dec 29 '15 at 0:52
  • @Viziionary Depends at what point during the cooking it was introduced. ...That said, I wouldn't bother trying no matter when it was. – jpmc26 Dec 29 '15 at 1:45
  • @Viziionary How would you know which part has it? – Zach Saucier Dec 29 '15 at 2:16
  • "One bad apple..." refers to one bad member of a group corrupting the others, not to punishment falling on the whole group. – Beta Dec 29 '15 at 3:01

Collective punishment is the formal expression:

  • Penalty imposed on every member of a group without regard to his or her involvement in the group's actions and conduct. Related: collective responsibility.


Is collective punishment fair in the classroom?:

  • Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions collective punishment is considered a war crime. "No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible."

  • Unfortunately for our students they do not have rights as general citizens or even our war enemies and common criminals in society. They shed their rights as they enter the double doors of the school and us parents shed our ability to ask for fair treatment of our children.

  • Excellent! Yes, I knew that 'Group Punishment' was close, but not right. "COLLECTIVE" was the keyword here. Thank you! – randomblink Dec 28 '15 at 13:10
  • on a side note, is that quote accurate? Do students shed their rights in this manner? – randomblink Dec 28 '15 at 13:13
  • I think it is an euphemistic way to express the concept shown above. – user66974 Dec 28 '15 at 13:15
  • Sorry Josh I know it was a typo but " a euphemistic way" – Afsane Dec 28 '15 at 13:25

"Asymmetrical Punishment" would be a more clear, and precise as the term for "punishing the many, for the acts of the few."


Though probably not as a good a choice as collective punishment, the word intimidation could also work in some cases. Groups of people are commonly punished in order to intimidate the majority.

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