Revenge Can Feel Good to People Who Experience Rejection

Woman alone and feeling rejectedPeople who feel rejected may engage in retaliatory aggression, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The findings also showed exacting revenge can improve mood.

Many people who feel they have been wronged experience a natural desire for revenge as a way to seek justice. Understanding which experiences trigger a need for vengeance could help reduce violence and interpersonal cruelty.

Revenge: Pleasurable and Triggered by Rejection

The study sought to explore how rejection affects the desire for revenge. Previous research has found a link between seeking revenge and a desire for status and power. The new study supports previous findings, pointing to a role for revenge as a coping mechanism to avoid shame.

Researchers conducted six trials on 1,516 participants. In one study, 154 students took a placebo pill. Researchers told them it would make their mood stable and unchanging. The students then played a computer game in which they passed a ball back and forth with two other “players,” who were pre-programmed computer responses.

One group was rejected by the other “players.” Compared to a group that received 15 of 30 passes, the rejection group received just three passes. Investigators asked participants to rate their rejection. Participants then had a chance to retaliate during a race to hit a buzzer. Faster participants could punish the slowest participant with a loud blast of noise. The loudest blast went up to 105 decibels—similar to the volume of a jackhammer.

To improve their mood, rejected players elected to expose other players to louder sound blasts. The rejected players who received the placebo pill believed nothing they did would improve their mood, so they predicted no benefit to seeking revenge. This trial also supports the notion that people seek revenge to feel better.

The study’s authors highlight the clear correlation in the trials between rejection and aggression, as well as a link between revenge and the desire to return to a more stable mood.


  1. Borreli, L. (2017, January 11). Why looking for revenge feels so good. Retrieved from
  2. Chester, D. S., & Dewall, C. N. (2016). Combating the sting of rejection with the pleasure of revenge: A new look at how emotion shapes aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi:10.1037/pspi0000080

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  • anne

    January 19th, 2017 at 11:18 AM

    It can feel good in the moment but I suspect that most of the time in hindsight you come to see that really this is not the person that you would choose to be, at least you will hopefully come to that conclusion.

  • Brent

    January 20th, 2017 at 1:26 PM

    I am not too sure that you have all of your priorities in line if this is the action that makes you feel good

  • Virginia Mc

    January 23rd, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    It’s usually a fleeting kind of feeling, nothing that completely resolves the initial hurt that you felt that caused you to act on it. But hey, we are all human, and sometimes that fleeting feeling of getting back at someone is enough, just what we need at that moment. Not saying that it’s right, but I know that I have been there and that many other readers probably have too.

  • jillian

    January 23rd, 2017 at 2:29 PM

    An eye for an eye right?
    There are still many people who follow that rule very closely.
    It is like their Golden rule for life, right or wrong, that’s the way they view things.

  • dakota

    January 24th, 2017 at 4:16 PM

    For better or for worse this is the only way that many people know to act on their feelings. They have never been taught to turn the other cheek, but only to get back at someone if they hurt you.

  • Sidney

    January 25th, 2017 at 2:28 PM

    Well when you don’t feel confident in yourself then it is natural to want to make another person miserable with you.

  • nobody

    February 11th, 2017 at 2:08 PM

    What gives people the right to make you feel bad? And to get away with it. If the answer is: “that’s life”, i say that is a pure BS answer to keep the world the crap-hole that it is. Do something about it…. just don’t ever turn the other cheek. Fight for your right to feel as good and as normal, before such negative action ever happens to you. Be pro-active, never reactive.


    February 19th, 2017 at 6:58 PM

    Very good information. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

  • Cyber

    July 15th, 2017 at 5:51 PM

    They should test romantic revenge. That probably has the most profound revenge response because humans, at their core, are programmed to compete for the most attractive mates and breed with them. It would be very easy to test as well since people actually desire stereotypes and fall in love with features within 5 min or so. You would only need to hire an actress who flirts with two men and then have her seriously turn down one of the males with taunts and humiliation. This would mimic real life nightclub settings in the US. Likewise for women you could hire a male model who flirts with two women and rejects one of them with taunts and mockery. For this experiment you would probably need to hire a bodyguard as the rejections may cause the target to lash out in mindless revenge. This would be a real study to show the real consequences of rejection on the human mind.

  • Health_junkie

    October 26th, 2020 at 4:46 PM

    Revenge feels so awesome every time for me, sometimes to the point that I want to be rejected so I can ‘avenge’ myself. The more bored I am, the more it’s true. For an excitement junkie, boredom is almost perpetual. Also, without revenge, I fester, but as soon as I pay back somehow, I no longer feel hostility toward the offender. The universe is in the balance again.

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