RICHMOND, Va. — Revenge is best served — by aggrieved sadists. A new study finds that people who enjoy seeing others in pain are more likely to embrace vengeance against those who have done them wrong.
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University conducted three separate studies involving nearly 700 students attending the University of Kentucky, hoping to gain insight into exactly who is most likely to seek retribution for a perceived wrong.
Participant responses, which were derived from a carefully-crafted, empirically-based behavioral questionnaire, allowed the researchers to analyze common attitudes about whether retaliation is truly worth it.
“What we found is that the person who seeks revenge is a person who tends to enjoy it,” reveals Dr. David Chester, an assistant professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead researcher, in a news release.
Put another way, the degree to which someone could be considered sadistic best predicts their propensity to try to get even, whether that’s through stealing a belonging, posting revenge porn, or something more sinister.
The researchers hope that their findings prompt further research into nipping violent behavior at the bud, particularly in light of an increasing number of acts of domestic terrorism, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
“Not everyone when they’re wronged goes out and shoots up a school. Not everyone when they’re wronged starts a bar fight,” Chester says. “But some people do. So identifying who is most at risk for seeking revenge is really important to do in order to intervene before they engage in harmful acts and start to hurt other people in retaliation.”
Chester, a leading expert in the study of aggression, believes that it’s time for a conversation on how to identify at-risk individuals before they take their grievances out on greater society.
“Our real world goal is to reduce violence and to reduce aggressive behavior. The most common form of that is revenge,” he explains. “When you ask murderers and terrorists and others who commit violence why they did what they did, the answer is frequently that they were seeking retribution for something that someone had done to them.”
Obviously, many variables factor into the DNA of a psychopath, but perhaps genes only make up part of the equation.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Aggressive Behavior.