That distinction could fuel intercultural conflicts when one side seeks vengeance for a slight the other didn't even know it committed.For example, an American might be more likely to seek revenge on someone who impinges on his or her right to voice an opinion, whereas public criticism that embarrasses a Korean in front of his or her friends might be more likely to trigger revenge feelings.Another possibility might be that certain groups and societies—such as those in largely lawless Somalia or in areas of the Middle East where tribal rule holds more sway than the national government—are more prone to seek revenge because there's just no other way to obtain justice, says Mc Kee.
In her studies, she has found that anger often drives the vengeful feelings of people in individualistic cultures, while shame powers revenge in collectivist ones. In a series of experiments, he and his colleagues Daniel Gilbert, Ph D, at Harvard, and Timothy Wilson, Ph D, at the University of Virginia, set up a group investment game with students where if everyone cooperated, everyone would benefit equally.
The revenge paradox Ask someone why they seek revenge, though, and they're likely to tell you their goal is catharsis, says Kevin Carlsmith, Ph D, a social psychologist at Colgate University in Hamilton, N. But exactly the opposite happens, according to a study he published in the May 2008 (Vol. However, if someone refused to invest his or her money, that person would disproportionately benefit at the group's expense.
In the feelings survey, the punishers reported feeling worse than the non-punishers, but predicted they would have felt even worse had they not been given the opportunity to punish.
The non-punishers said they thought they would feel better if they'd had that opportunity for revenge—even though the survey identified them as the happier group.
"You're willing to sacrifice your well-being in order to punish someone who misbehaved." And to get people to punish altruistically, they have to be fooled into it.
Hence, evolution might have wired our minds to think that revenge will make us feel good.
"Virtually everybody was angry over what happened to them," Carlsmith says, "and everyone given the opportunity [for revenge] took it." He then gave the students a survey to measure their feelings after the experiment.
He also asked the groups who'd been allowed to punish the free rider to predict how they'd feel if they hadn't been allowed to, and he asked the non-punishing groups how they thought they'd feel if they had.
But more than 2,000 years later, Martin Luther King Jr., responded, "The old law of 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind." Who's right?
As psychologists explore the mental machinery behind revenge, it turns out both can be, depending on who and where you are.