Revenge tastes sweet, even if it is not directed against the person who harmed us: An Examination of Justice-Related Satisfaction after Displaced Revenge

Numerous ongoing conflicts in the world, such as terrorist attacks and retributive reactions to such attacks, illustrate that acts of revenge are often not directed against the actual offender, but rather against third persons who are not directly involved in the original offense. Such acts of '...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Sjöström, Arne
Contributors: Gollwitzer, Mario (Prof. Dr.) (Thesis advisor)
Format: Dissertation
Language:English
Published: Philipps-Universität Marburg 2015
Psychologie
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Summary:Numerous ongoing conflicts in the world, such as terrorist attacks and retributive reactions to such attacks, illustrate that acts of revenge are often not directed against the actual offender, but rather against third persons who are not directly involved in the original offense. Such acts of 'displaced revenge' are the hallmark of large-scale intergroup conflicts (cf. Lickel, Miller, Stenstrom, Denson, & Schmader, 2006; Lickel, 2012). Previous research investigated under which circumstances acts of displaced revenge are more likely to occur (e.g., Gaertner, Iuzzini, & O’Mara, 2008; Newheiser, Sakaowa, & Dovidio, 2012; Stenstrom, Lickel, Denson, & Miller, 2008), but has not considered whether displaced revenge can be satisfying and achieve a subjective sense of justice. However, knowing when avengers are satisfied with revenge might not only be an interesting question for and in itself, but it may also contribute to a deeper psychological insight into the goals underlying vengeful actions. Building upon the notion that direct revenge aims at delivering a message (“don’t mess with me!”; e.g., Gollwitzer & Denzler, 2009; Gollwitzer, Meder, & Schmitt, 2011), it is argued that displaced revenge alike might be satisfying and achieve a sense of justice when it effectively delivers a message to the offender other members of his or her group. To address this question and explore the psychological dynamics underlying displaced revenge, this Dissertation includes five studies which are presented in two manuscripts. All studies explored the contextual conditions under which displaced revenge can lead to the experience of satisfaction and restored justice. Studies 1 to 3 (Manuscript #1) show that displaced revenge leads to more justice-related satisfaction (but not less feelings of regret) when the group to which the offender and the target belong is highly entitative. In addition, results of Study 3 demonstrate that avengers experienced the highest level of satisfaction when the offender’s group was perceived to be strongly interactive and, at the same time, similar in appearance. Having established the effect of entitativity on justice-related satisfaction in Studies 1 to 3, Studies 4 and 5 (Manuscript #2) aimed at investigating why displaced revenge against a member of a highly entitative (vs. low entitative) group is more satisfying. The goal of Study 4 was to examine whether displaced revenge primarily serves to give targets their just deserts or whether it potentially serves to deliver a message which has to be received by the original offender. Results show that displaced revenge is satisfying, when the offender’s group continued to exist in its original form, but not when the offender left the group or when the group dissolves. Study 5 shows that displaced revenge leads to the highest levels of satisfaction when both the original offender and the target of revenge understood why revenge was taken. Taken together, the results of the present Dissertation corroborate the notion that displaced revenge is a goal-directed behavior, which serves to deliver a message to the offender and the target of displaced revenge.
DOI:https://doi.org/10.17192/z2015.0367