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Aggress Behav. 2018 May;44(3):235-245. doi: 10.1002/ab.21746. Epub 2017 Dec 19.

Personality correlates of revenge-seeking: Multidimensional links to physical aggression, impulsivity, and aggressive pleasure.

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Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Richmond, Virginia.


People differ in how much they seek retribution for interpersonal insults, slights, rejections, and other antagonistic actions. Identifying individuals who are most prone towards such revenge-seeking is a theoretically-informative and potentially violence-reducing endeavor. However, we have yet to understand the extent to which revenge-seeking individuals exhibit specific features of aggressiveness, impulsivity, and what motivates their hunt for retribution. Toward this end, we conducted three studies (total N = 673), in which revenge-seeking was measured alongside these other constructs. Analyses repeatedly demonstrated that revenge-seeking was associated with greater physical (but not verbal) aggressiveness, anger, and hostility. Revenge-seeking's link to physical aggression was partially accounted for by impulses toward enjoying aggression and the tendency to use aggression to improve mood. Dominance analyses revealed that sadism explained the most variance in revenge-seeking. Revenge-seeking was associated with greater impulsive responses to negative and positive affect, as well as greater premeditation of behavior. These findings paint a picture of revenge-seekers as physically aggressive curators of anger, whose retributive acts are performed with planned malice and motivated by the act's entertaining and therapeutic qualities.


aggression; personality; positive affect; revenge; revenge-seeking


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