People Who Seek Revenge Are Often Sadistic and Plan Vengeful Attacks Interview with:

David Chester, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychology Virginia Commonwealth University

Dr. Chester

David Chester, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Virginia Commonwealth University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We wanted to understand what personality traits define people who tend to seek revenge. We observed that the defining personality characteristic of revenge-seekers is sadism, which is the tendency to enjoy the suffering of others. Put simply, the people who seek revenge are the ones most likely to enjoy it. We also found some other interesting results, namely that revenge-seekers are also prone to premeditation. They like to plan out their actions ahead of time, which settles a long-standing debate about whether revenge seekers act on impulse or plan out their vengeful acts.

“Revenge” by SamahR is licensed under CC BY What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: That revenge is not merely the result of anger or fear or other negative emotions, but is primarily a product of positive emotions. Indeed, the “sweetness” of revenge likely forms the core of why people enact this behavior. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: These findings should be tested as screening instruments in the real-world, to see if we can predict actual acts of revenge from these personality questionnaires. If sadistic tendencies can serve to identify those most prone to revenge, then we may be able to target such individuals before they engage in these acts. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: These findings are purely correlational and obtained with a convenience sample of undergraduate students, which could have large implications for the generalizability of these findings. More work needs to be done to replicate these effects in more diverse and violent populations. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Physical aggressiveness and gray matter deficits in ventromedial prefrontal cortex
DS Chester, DR Lynam, R Milich, CN DeWall – Cortex, 2017
Volume 97, December 2017, Pages 17-22

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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