Real-life revenge may not effectively deter norm violations

M. Elshout*, R.M.A. Nelissen, I. van Beest, S. Elshout, W.W. van Dijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


The current article examined the characteristics of real-life revenge acts. A demographically diverse sample of avengers described autobiographical revenge acts and the preceding offense. They rated the severity of both acts, the time before taking revenge, and motives for the timing. Independent raters also rated the severity of both acts and coded the domains. Results revealed that real-life revenge is (1) by and large equally common as revealed by lab-based studies on revenge, but (2) is usually a delayed response, and (3) although similar to offenses in severity (according to independent parties), it is dissimilar in the domain. These characteristics contradict manifestations of revenge as studied in lab research (e.g., as a response that must take place immediately and in the same domain). These discrepancies suggest that not all real-life instances of revenge are optimally suited to serve a deterrence function and that other motives may underlie more destructive revenge acts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-399
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Revenge
  • aggression
  • retaliation
  • vengeance
  • violence


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