An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: an investigation into what makes revenge satisfying
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AbstractThe goal of the present research was to explore the portrayal of revenge in popular film and to investigate aspects of revenge episodes that make them psychologically satisfying from an observer's point of view. I designed the first study to (a) examine the nature of revenge as it is portrayed in popular revenge movies, and (b) reveal the specific elements of a revenge episode that evoke observer feelings of satisfaction. I employed a policy-capturing approach in the second study to investigate experimentally the extent to which the following three elements affect people's judgments of the satisfaction surrounding a revenge episode: whether innocent bystanders are harmed, whether the avenger is a "good" versus "bad" person, and whether the avenger experiences consequences due to the revenge act. Based on the findings of Study 1, revenge appears to be portrayed as a highly violent action mainly sought by "good" White males against "bad" White males in response to an equally violent action. Altruistic revenge and avenger regret were discovered to be significantly associated with feelings of satisfaction. Moreover, I discovered justice to be a key underlying variable of feelings of satisfaction stemming from an observation of revenge. Study 2 revealed that participants weighted harm to innocent bystanders more heavily than the avenger's character and the avenger's character more heavily than consequences to the avenger when psychological satisfaction was at issue. The present findings are important in revealing the kinds of variables that make revenge satisfying to observers and thus, the factors that might affect people's assessments of their own and others' revenge.
Bibliography: p. 143-153