The neural processes behind our desire for revenge
Summary: During a conflict between two groups, oxytocin levels increase, influencing the medial prefrontal cortex. This results in a greater feeling of empathy among the group and a desire to seek revenge on rivals. The findings shed light on how conflict contagion can occur in social groups.
New insight on the neural processes that drive a desire for revenge during conflict between groups has been published today in the open-access journal eLife.
The study suggests that the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is increased during conflict between groups and influences the medial prefrontal cortex, the section of the brain associated with our decision-making activity. This leads to a greater feeling of love and empathy among a group and the desire to seek revenge when attacked by an outside group. The findings may help explain how a process called ‘conflict contagion’ can occur, where a conflict that starts between a few individuals ends up spreading among entire groups.
“The desire to seek revenge for an attack during conflict is universal among humans, but the neurobiological processes that drive it are still unclear,” says lead author Xiaochun Han, Doctor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Peking University, China. “Building upon previous studies, we suggest there may be a neurobiological mechanism that links pain within a group, known as the ‘ingroup’, caused by an outside group, or ‘outgroup’, with the tendency to seek revenge upon the outgroup.”
To explore this possible mechanism further, the team developed a new neural-behavioural experiment that simulates real-life revenge during conflict between groups. As oxytocin is known to play a role in empathy within a group and in regulating intergroup conflict, they wanted to examine the oxytocin and neural responses to ingroup suffering caused by an outgroup, and to see how these responses predicted a desire for revenge. https://neurosciencenews.com/revenge-neural-processes-15844/