Revenge is Sweet?

"If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?
William Shakespeare"

Revenge, say scientists is sweet. "Elegant" research, performed by the University of Zurich, Switzerland, published in the journal Science, shows that when we punish others for wrong doing, we feel good and we feel satisfied.

To test, how we feel after others have abused our trust and we are given the opportunity for "altruistic punishment", researchers scanned the brains of people wronged during a game, which involved trusting a partner to spit a pot of money evenly. In this experiment however, the partner actually kept all the loot. The researchers then, gave the wronged person the opportunity to get revenge and as the person contemplated how they would achieve  payback, positron emission tomography (PET) measured brain blood flow.  A flurry of neural activity, was noted in the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain known to process rewards. Brian Knutson, a psychologist at Stanford University, commented that this experiment also demonstrated "schadenfreude", the pleasure we derive from the misfortune of others.

In human history, the desire for revenge and the desire for loot have often been closely associated.
John McCarthy


Revenge is Sweet

While the immediate after effects of revenge may be sweet, what about as time goes by? it seems revenge is probably not so sweet, in the long term, just as sugar tastes lovely at the start, later it can cause rot to set in.

Revenge is SweetCredit: Flickr falashad

 Many psychologists have found, that revenge, can evolve into Vendettas and endless cycles of retaliation and retribution, like "blood  feuds", which are common in many ancient, tribal cultures and other "cultures of honour". "Cultures of honour", often revolve around the idea of punishment for perceived wrongs which must be revenged to assuage shame, to the family or tribe. Honour killings can be the result from such a mind set.

A Culture of Revenge

In 2001 a, United Nations report,  estimated that 4,000 women and girls had been victims of 

The Horror of Revenge!Credit: Flickr Snowlepardhonor killings” in Iraq in the previous decade! In some cultures young girls can be married off by their fathers at age nine. Children are considered the property of the father and if the girls refuse, they may suffer retribution for bringing shame to their family. The desire for "revenge", can also become terrifyingly ridiculous, like the case of the 12-year old Jordanian girl, whose father beat her to death with sticks and chains, because she went for a walk without her father's permission.


The Results of Revenge

So does taking revenge provide catharsis and purge us of anger, shame and hostility? In 2002, research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Ohio State University, reported higher aggression levels in those who expressed their anger, than those who did not. Perhaps, it is actually the case that, taking revenge merely keeps aggression as a slow kindling fire, which can easily turn into a raging inferno. Or, as Francis Bacon said:
“A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal, and do well.”
Revenge however, seems to be in some sense or form, intrinsic to human interactions and often the core to many novels, films and even operas. Greek myths express how Medea avenges her husband's betrayal, Mad Max, is about a "mad" anti-hero bent on revenge, as is Hamlet and Othello by William Shakespeare. However in real life, it is probably like Gandhi said  "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."
Revenge... is like a rolling stone,
which, when a man hath forced up a hill,
will return upon him with a greater violence,
and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.
- Albert Schweitzer

Spoon: Revenge!