It might also be comforting to know that not everyone acts out on their desire to seek revenge. One 2006 study found that men get more pleasure from the idea of revenge. Male participants were found to have more activity in the reward circuit of the brain than women when they saw cheating opponents receive an electric shock. In another 2008 study, Ozlem Ayduk of the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues, found that those with specific personality types were more likely to act violently after rejection. She found that certain individuals had higher levels of “rejection sensitivity” – who were more likely to expect rejection based on past experiences.
These individuals were also found to be more neurotic and to show anxiety and depression. “They have this tendency to see rejection even where it doesn’t exist. Rejection is an existential threat, so that expectation [of rejection] actually prepares – both mentally and physiologically – the person to defend themselves,” says Ayduk. Retaliatory aggression for these individuals was therefore a “knee-jerk” reaction to feeling rejected.