People who are more vengeful tend to be those who are motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status,” he says. “They don’t want to lose face.”
In his study, McKee surveyed 150 university students who answered questions about their attitudes toward revenge, authority and tradition, and group inequality. He found that the students whose answers showed a deference to authority and respect for traditions and social dominance, had the most favorable opinions about revenge and retribution.
Those personalities, McKee says, “tend to be less forgiving, less benevolent and less focused on universal-connectedness-type values.”
There’s also a cultural dimension to people’s predilection for revenge, says revenge researcher Michele Gelfand, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She and her collaborators Garriy Shteynberg and Kibum Kim have found that different events trigger the revenge process in different cultures; American students feel more offended when their rights are violated, whereas Korean students feel more offended when their sense of duty and obligation is threatened, they show in a paper in the January Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. That distinction could fuel intercultural conflicts when one side seeks vengeance for a slight the other didn’t even know it committed. For example, an American might be more likely to seek revenge on someone who impinges on his or her right to voice an opinion, whereas public criticism that embarrasses a Korean in front of his or her friends might be more likely to trigger revenge feelings.