Next, 154 new participants were asked to swallow a pill – actually a placebo – that would enhance their thinking for an upcoming test. Some of the subjects were told that a side-effect of this pill was that their mood would remain stable from about the halfway point of the next experiment.
They then had to play a simple videogame involving being passed a ball between themselves and two other partners. In one variant of the game, the ball was passed successfully by the computer-controlled partners to the human players half the time; in another, they were passed the ball just 10 percent of the time.
They were then asked to describe how they felt before being asked if they would like to get their revenge on their partner in the game. For those that wished to, they were asked to play another game of torture.
For this evil game, the players had to race one of their previous partners to a buzzer before the other. The winner was rewarded with the chance to blast noise into the ears of their opponent. With each successive win, they were allowed to – but didn’t have to – increase the decibels of the noise attacks right up to the volume of a helicopter hovering just overheard.
As expected, those that chose to up the ante of the volume were those that were rejected earlier (and more frequently) in the videogame.
Curiously, there was one exception to this – those that had taken the “mood-stabilizing” pill. It seems that the prospect that their mood would never improve meant that they never saw the point of attempting to fix it via revenge.
So there we have it. Revenge is sweet after all, because we use it to knowingly give our wronged selves a positive emotional boost.
We're not saying that revenge is now fine, but it we can't deny that it probably feels good. successo images/Shutterstock