'It's Not About the Money. It's About Sending a Message!': Avengers Want Offenders to Understand the Reason for Revenge
79 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2020 Last revised: 30 Aug 2022
Date Written: August 30, 2022
While revenge is typically thought to serve utilitarian goals (deter future offenses) or as an end in itself (restore fairness, equate suffering), we test whether “belief-based” motives also shape revenge behavior. Across four studies—one observational, two hypothetical choice, and one real choice—we find evidence that avengers want the offender to understand why (and sometimes by whom) they are being punished, even when doing so cannot change the offender’s future behavior. Avengers prefer punishments that allow them to communicate the reason to offenders, and they are willing to compromise on distributive justice to do so. Furthermore, avengers are less motivated to cause suffering if offenders remain ignorant of the reason. We explore reasons beyond deterrence that explain why avengers may care about what offenders believe, and also discuss the implications of these motives for organizations.
Keywords: Beliefs, Belief-based utility, Communication, Justice, Morality, Punishment, Revenge
JEL Classification: C70, C91, D03, D63, D82, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation