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Most Humans Not Fans of 'Revenge Best Served Cold', Prefer Instant Retaliation: Study

In the study, 58 percent of people chose to take quick revenge, not caring if it implied dealing a lesser blow to the offender. (Image for representation/Shutterstock)

In the study, 58 percent of people chose to take quick revenge, not caring if it implied dealing a lesser blow to the offender. (Image for representation/Shutterstock)

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University said more than 50 percent of people prefer to strike right away without any plotting.

While the phrase embedded in the English language says, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” a new study claims most people would want action to be taken immediately. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University said more than 50 percent of people prefer to strike right away without any plotting. A team conducted six experiments with more than 1500 participants. Of them, 58 percent chose to take quick revenge, not caring if it implied dealing a lesser blow to the offender.

Dr David Chester, Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities, VCU, who also co-authored the study, said in a university release, “(Our findings suggest) that people prefer a ‘hot-and-ready’ form of revenge, instead of a cold, calculated and delayed approach to vengeance.” While that was the preference for the majority of the volunteers across the spectrum, the experiments found that a shift in preference towards delayed revenge is possible. When the participants were asked to dwell on a past incident, 42 percent of them opted for delayed but greater choices and were willing to wait only to enact more severe vengeance.

Dr. Samuel West, Ph.D., a postdoctoral official with the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at VCU Health, said, “Making this more complex is the fact that we also found that such individuals also had greater antagonistic traits like sadism (i.e., deriving enjoyment out of the suffering of others) and angry rumination.”

The study also found that most of the participating volunteers found quick revenge more desirable than money. The researchers suggest that this could be because people believe they have to seek vengeance immediately to teach others a lesson. According to the team, the findings make sense because people tend to consider that the past wrongs need a reasonable and proportionate retaliatory response so the provocateurs learn not to do so again. The study seems to show that preferences can change from person to person reacting to the place where a situation happened. Also, people may behave differently depending on who is more likely to inflict harm than others.

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The researchers hope the research could shed more light on give a better insight into theories of aggression or antisocial behaviour. The team concluded the report saying, “Across six studies, we found that people treated such intertemporal decisions about revenge like they do for other rewards — they preferred receiving some now to receiving more later. Yet our results did not paint those who bided their time for greater revenge as impulsive, uninhibited individuals. Instead, they exhibited the recruitment of greater self-regulation.”

The research is published in the journal Motivation Science.

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first published:August 12, 2021, 20:22 IST