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Revenge sweeter than forgiveness - at least in stories, finds study

ANI | Updated: Feb 12, 2020 11:33 IST

Ohio [USA], Feb 12 (ANI): Humans love taking revenge from cheaters more than forgiving them - at least in stories - explains new research on revenge and forgiveness.
The study suggests that when it comes to entertainment, people enjoy seeing bad guys get their punishment more than seeing them be forgiven.
But even though they don't enjoy the forgiveness stories as much, people do find these narratives more meaningful and thought-provoking than ones in which the bad guys receive their just deserts.
"We like stories in which the wrongdoers are punished and when they get more punishment than they deserve, we find it fun," said the leas researcher, Matthew Grizzard.
"Still, people appreciate stories of forgiveness the most, even if they don't find them to be quite as fun," he added.
The study that was published in the journal, Communication Research involved 184 college students who read short narratives that they were told were plots to possible television episodes.
The students read 15 narratives: one-third in which the villain was treated positively by the victim; one-third in which the villain received a just punishment; and one-third in which the villain was punished over and beyond what would have been a suitable penalty for the crime.
After the experimentation, researchers found that readers took less time to respond to stories with equitable retribution than it did for them to respond to stories with under- or over-retribution.
"People have a gut-level response as to how they think people should be punished for wrongdoing and when a narrative delivers what they expect, they often respond more quickly," Grizzard said.
When the punishment did not fit the crime, the participants took a bit longer to respond to the story with a like or dislike. But why they took longer appeared to be different for stories with under-retribution versus stories with over-retribution, Grizzard said. The reason why may be explained by the next part of the study.
After the participants read all 15 narratives, they rated each story for enjoyment ("This story would be a good time, fun, entertaining") and appreciation ("This story would be meaningful, moving, thought-provoking").
Participants thought stories in which the bad guys were over-punished would be the most enjoyable and those in which the bad guys were forgiven would be the least enjoyable to watch. Equitable punishment was in the middle.
But they also said they would appreciate the stories about forgiveness more than the other two types of narratives.
According to the lead researcher,the participants may have paused slightly before responding to the forgiveness stories to reflect, because they saw them as more meaningful.
But while they also paused for the over-punishment narratives, they did not find them more meaningful, only more enjoyable, he said. That suggests the pause may have been simply to savor the extra punishment the villain received.
"It appears to be the darker side of just enjoying the vengeance," he said.
Overall, the results suggest that a fair and just retribution is the "intuitive moral standard" that comes to us easily and naturally, according to Grizzard.
"But seeing a lack of punishment requires a level of deliberation that doesn't come to us naturally. We can appreciate it, even if it doesn't seem particularly enjoyable," Grizzard said.(ANI)