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Exploring the dynamics of revenge Nathanson, Craig

Abstract

Although its consequences can be devastating, revenge is surprisingly understudied. In this dissertation, I address several key questions. For example, are the factors that trigger revenge the same across different individuals? What are the psychological processes that facilitate revenge? Does revenge have any adaptive value? These issues were addressed with a series of three studies. Study 1 explored whether personality predictors of self-reported revenge generalize across four specific transgressions. Results indicated that narcissists were only vengeful after social rejection whereas psychopaths and neurotics tended to be vengeful across transgressions. Study 2 expanded on these results by exploring trait-level vengeful fantasies and vengeful behaviors and the impact of a potential mediator, namely, anger rumination. Neuroticism was shown to be predictive of vengeful fantasies: This association was entirely mediated by anger rumination. Psychopathy predicted vengeful behavior: This association was partially mediated by vengeful fantasies. Study 3 involved the analysis of participants' personal anecdotes about how they reacted to transgressions against them. Coded variables included revenge as well as 10 other coping behaviors: These 11 predictors were then evaluated with respect to their impact on both immediate relief and long-term recovery. Although the revenge option fostered immediate relief, it did not benefit long-term recovery. Only one coping behavior (meaning-making) actually fostered recovery. The contributions and limitations of this research plus suggestions for future studies are discussed.

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