The psychological foundations of revenge

The Winnipeg Free Press reports:

The quest for vengeance is a human universal and accumulating evidence shows avengers permeate the animal kingdom. There is a common neurological foundation and scientists suspect a pay-back mentality developed to promote social harmony by discouraging aberrant behaviours.

“Revenge takes place throughout the animal kingdom,” reports Michael McCullough at the University of Miami. “Fish, birds and all kinds of primates retaliate.”

Violations of trust are most often the cause for vengeful actions.

“A cheated person has bad feelings if the cheater does not get just punishment,” observed Ernst Fehr at the University of Zurich, adding that people feel “satisfied” when others are punished for bad behaviour.

According to research by Dominique de Quervain and colleagues, “people derive satisfaction from punishing norm violators.”


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