Revenge is sweet

Past research has found that neural activity associated with feedback processing is enhanced by positive approach‐motivated states. However, no past work has examined how reward processing changes in the context of revenge. Using a novel aggression paradigm, we sought to explore the influence of approach‐motivated anger on neural responses to feedback indicating the opportunity to seek revenge against an offending opponent by examining the reward positivity (RewP), an event‐related potential indexing performance feedback. In Experiment 1, after receiving insulting feedback from an opponent, participants played a reaction time game with three trial types: revenge trials, aggravation trials, and no‐consequence trials. Results revealed that RewP amplitudes were larger to revenge trial win feedback than no‐consequence trial win feedback or revenge trial loss feedback. RewP amplitudes were larger to both aggravation trial win and loss feedback than on no‐consequence trials. Experiment 2 examined the influence of approach‐motivated anger during the acquisition of rewards on the RewP without the possibility of retribution from the offending individual. Participants played a reaction time game similar to Experiment 1, except instead of giving or receiving noise blasts, participants could win money from the insulter (revenge trials) or a neutral‐party (e.g., bank). Results indicated that revenge wins elicited larger RewP amplitudes than bank wins. These results suggest that anger enhances revenge‐related RewP amplitudes to obtaining revenge opportunities and further aggravation wins or losses. Anger appears to enhance the pleasurable feelings of revenge.

“It [revenge] is far sweeter than honey.”

— Homer, The Illiad

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