Does Revenge Serve an Evolutionary Purpose?

Scientific American:

Spontaneous patriotic chants and flag-waving crowds were sparked by word that Osama bin Laden had been killed earlier this week. Despite the man’s loathed reputation as the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the jubilation over bin Laden’s death raises the question: Why the celebration? Was it relief, a sense of justice—or the simple pleasure of revenge?

As draconian as lethal retribution might seem, science has shown that the human brain can take pleasure in certain kinds of revenge. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have revealed that thinking about revenge activates the reward center—where the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine is lodged—in much the same way that sweet foods or even drugs can or even drugs can.

Read the whole story: Scientific American

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Revenge is sweet, we can take pleasure in many things. That does not mean it is right to do so. We live in a different world to the one we evolved in so our ‘legacy systems’ can get us into trouble. In the ancestral environment it provided satisfaction to exact revenge on a miscreant even though it may cost us presumably to teach them a lesson, warn others and bond the group together. Game theory studies show how willing people are to ‘cut their nose off to spite their face’.
In the modern world with different sources of information and the ability to store and manipulate images it is easy to see how a price could be paid.
Storing a grudge is unhealthy and I beleive associated with depression and separately psychopathy – neither of which we would like to see more of.

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