Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Real-life revenge may not effectively deter norm violations, as a response that must take place almost immediately and in the same domain to be effective

Real-life revenge may not effectively deter norm violations. Maartje Elshout, Rob M. A., Nelissen, Ilja van Beest, Suzan Elshout & Wilco W. van Dijk. The Journal of Social Psychology, Oct 28 2019.

ABSTRACT: The current article examined the characteristics of real-life revenge acts. A demographically diverse sample of avengers described autobiographical revenge acts and the preceding offense. They rated the severity of both acts, the time before taking revenge, and motives for the timing. Independent raters also rated the severity of both acts and coded the domains. Results revealed that real-life revenge is (1) by and large equally common as revealed by lab-based studies on revenge, but (2) is usually a delayed response, and (3) although similar to offenses in severity (according to independent parties), it is dissimilar in the domain. These characteristics contradict manifestations of revenge as studied in lab research (e.g., as a response that must take place immediately and in the same domain). These discrepancies suggest that not all real-life instances of revenge are optimally suited to serve a deterrence function and that other motives may underlie more destructive revenge acts.

KEYWORDS: Revenge, vengeance, retaliation, violence, aggression



Only 14.4% of avengers took revenge immediately. The majority of avengers took revenge after at least a day had passed and the largest group took revenge between 1 week and 1 month after the offense. The delay was influenced by (low) immediate revenge possibility and planning tendencies. The results on time between the offense and revenge act are in line with theoretical reflections on revenge arguing that revenge usually takes place after some time has passed (Frijda, 2007; Kim & Smith, 1993), in part because it requires planning (Bar-Elli & Heyd, 1986).
In lab research, revenge acts usually take place right after the offense, in line with its supposed role as a deterrence mechanism. However, the current findings suggest that revenge is typically delayed, which makes it poorly geared toward deterring future offenses as this requires a certain level of instantaneousness for the offense to be associated with the punishment.

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