People 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.
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.
- Borreli, L. (2017, January 11). Why looking for revenge feels so good. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/looking-revenge-soothes-social-rejection-bad-mood-complicated-psychology-why-408310
- 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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