This Is Why Revenge Feels So Good, According To Science

Owch. Suat Gursozlu/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 10 Jan 2017, 16:49

We’ve all wanted to seek out vengeance upon an enemy, or perhaps even a friend, at some point in our lives. It’s often said that revenge is sweet, and a new piece of research seems to confirm there’s a good reason why – it balances out our previously negative mood.

A rather unusual story unfolds in a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology regarding the subject. When a rigorous scientific study involves actual voodoo dolls, you know something odd is going on.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky asked 156 participants to write an essay on a personal topic of their choice, before asking them to swap them with others to get some feedback. This was how it went down in the control group, but in a sneaky second group, one of the researchers pretended to be a participant and made sure to leave the most gloriously awful feedback for some of the others.

Afterwards, the participants were given the chance to demonstrate how angry the feedback did or did not make them. They were given the chance to interact with a virtual voodoo doll that partly resembled the participant that had so savaged their essay writing skills. Then, they were permitted to poke some needles through it.

The mood of the participants was taken before the essay writing began and after the voodoo doll interaction. Curiously, not only did the most aggrieved participants manage to regain their original, happier mood after engaging in a little bit of doll torture, but for some people, their mood was indistinguishable from those who had received positive essay feedback.

However, there’s a caveat here. It may seem like people are seeking revenge for their social rejection in order to fix their mood, but another wicked game was required to determine whether or not this was true.

Well now that's a little unfair. Fer Gregory/Shutterstock

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