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At first sight, vengeance appears to be a puzzling emotion, as it does not redress the harm that elicited it, while acting on it may well turn out to be counterproductive. In this study we asked a large group of (young) respondents (n=513) to think of a particular recent incident that made them feel vengeful and to report whether they had acted on it or not, what their purpose had been in doing so, and how they felt afterwards. Only a minority of the respondents reported that they had taken action to get even with the perpetrator, mostly in order to restore the disturbed balance of power. The type of harm that they had suffered had no significant relation to the decision to act on it. Although most of them said that afterwards they felt good about it, this may only have been a fleeting satisfaction, as the data suggest that in the end taking action had not made their residual vengeful feelings subside any faster than those of respondents who had not acted on them. The question of the generalizability of the results is briefly discussed.

Keywords: Emotions; Vengeance

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-12-01

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