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A study titled Some Revenge Now or More Revenge Later? Applying an International Framework to Retaliatory Aggression gathered 1508 respondents to evaluate their thoughts on revenge. The study in the journal Motivation Science put the respondents through six experiments. Researchers working on the study found that 58% of the participants preferred immediate but less severe revenge to delayed but severe revenge. However, if the participants thought about it for long, they were more likely to go for delayed revenge.

How researchers conducted the study

In one experiment, researchers tasked respondents with playing a video game with a fake opponent. First, however, they made them think that the other player was real. Then, researchers told them they could use a smaller blast on their opponent the same day or a louder one the next day.

In another experiment, researchers placed them in a virtual chatroom with other participants. Participants soon found that the other respondents would exclude them from about 80% of the conversation. After the exchange, researchers gave the wronged participants a choice on how long the others would have to put their hands in painfully cold water.

For both these experiments, researchers concluded that people preferred instant revenge. Moreover, many of the participants chose to exact revenge than get money. In addition, those who went for delayed revenge were less likely to accept monetary incentives.

Researchers realized that people willing to wait for revenge had more antagonistic traits like angry rumination and sadism. However, they also showed more self-regulation.

According to Dr. David Chester, a co-author for the study, delayed and harsh revenge is most likely when provocation is severe or when the wrong person feels provoked.

Revenge causes more unpleasant emotions

Another study by Swiss researchers scanned the brains of people wanting to take revenge after others wronged them in an economic exchange game. But, unfortunately, their partners had chosen to keep the money to themselves even though they were supposed to split it.

The volunteers formulated their revenge plot for a minute. Scientists found that the caudate nucleus of the brain was activated. This part processes rewards. However, revenge was not as satisfying as expected. Instead, it extended the unpleasantness of the offense.