Article

Cognitive Systems for Revenge and Forgiveness

Department of Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124-0751. http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Impact Factor: 20.77). 12/2012; 36(1):1-15. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X11002160
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Minimizing the costs that others impose upon oneself and upon those in whom one has a fitness stake, such as kin and allies, is a key adaptive problem for many organisms. Our ancestors regularly faced such adaptive problems (including homicide, bodily harm, theft, mate poaching, cuckoldry, reputational damage, sexual aggression, and the infliction of these costs on one's offspring, mates, coalition partners, or friends). One solution to this problem is to impose retaliatory costs on an aggressor so that the aggressor and other observers will lower their estimates of the net benefits to be gained from exploiting the retaliator in the future. We posit that humans have an evolved cognitive system that implements this strategy - deterrence - which we conceptualize as a revenge system. The revenge system produces a second adaptive problem: losing downstream gains from the individual on whom retaliatory costs have been imposed. We posit, consequently, a subsidiary computational system designed to restore particular relationships after cost-imposing interactions by inhibiting revenge and motivating behaviors that signal benevolence for the harmdoer. The operation of these systems depends on estimating the risk of future exploitation by the harmdoer and the expected future value of the relationship with the harmdoer. We review empirical evidence regarding the operation of these systems, discuss the causes of cultural and individual differences in their outputs, and sketch their computational architecture.

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    • "Both ethnographic and evolutionary studies of revenge point toward adaptive behaviour. While studies of offender cultures see revenge as a proximate social adaptation to imminent social threats, evolutionary accounts imply that human social cognition may be 'hard-wired' to revenge potential as an adaptation to ancestral rather than present environments (Eisner, 2011: 475–476; McCullough et al., 2012; Westermarck, 1898). However, both traditions see the human potential for revenge as differentially triggered by environmental stimuli and differential life histories. "
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    ABSTRACT: Revenge is a well-recognised motive for crime and violence. In sociological research, this topic has been pursued primarily in ethnographic studies of street offenders or gang conflicts. Psychologists have studied revenge behaviour experimentally in laboratory settings and revenge ideation with community samples. Despite these contributions, we know very little about the prevalence and correlates of revenge-motivated offending in representative normal populations. Most studies focus on violence, ignoring the role revenge may play in non-violent offending. Drawing on a Finnish youth crime survey (n = 5373), this research describes the prevalence of the revenge motive in delinquent behaviour and explores correlates of revenge-motivated delinquency (RMD). The findings indicate that approximately one-half of interpersonal assaults are motivated by revenge and that a significant proportion (10–20%) of running away from home and vandalism is also related to revenge. Narrative evidence from incident descriptions suggests that roughly one in four RMD incidents reflect social/altruistic offending on behalf of a friend or a relative. In correlational analysis, girls, victims of school bullying and those expressing pro-revenge attitudes were more likely to be motivated by revenge when engaging in delinquency. The findings suggest that social learning, situational strain and deterrence theories are promising directions for further research in this area.
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    • "Forgiving and rewarding entail the lowest degrees of deterrence. These two responses are generally motivated less by maximizing deterrence and more by preserving a valuable relationship (Karremans, Van Lange, Ouwerkerk, & Kluwer, 2003; McCullough et al., 2013). In addition, both responses are contingent to the motive of creative deviance; that is, creative deviants are forgiven or rewarded because of their well-intentioned motive to further explore a new idea that could benefit the organization. "
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    ABSTRACT: Leaders routinely reject employees' new ideas, and some employees violate leaders' instructions in order to keep their rejected ideas alive. These incidents of creative deviance are usually examined in terms of the personal characteristics of employees and the structural properties of the work context. We introduce a third theoretical angle that focuses on the role leaders play in creative deviance. Drawing on the extant creativity, deviance, and leadership literatures, we argue that five leader responses to employee creative deviance – forgiving, rewarding, punishing, ignoring, and manipulating – exert differential influences on its consequences. Findings from a study of 226 leader–employee dyads at two advertising firms in China show that creative deviance and supportive supervision for creativity interact to influence the forgiving, rewarding, punishing, and ignoring responses. In turn, forgiving and punishing influence subsequent creative deviance, while rewarding, punishing, and manipulating influence subsequent creative performance. The study reveals that leaders' responses to creative deviance convey the joint effect of initial creative deviance and supportive supervision for creativity to subsequent creative deviance and creative performance. Implications for theory and research on workplace creativity, deviance, and leadership are discussed.
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    • "4. Investor's forgiveness: a Cognition-Appraisal-Response (CAR) model " Revenge and forgiveness, we argue, have complementary biological functions: We posit that mechanisms for revenge are designed to deter harms, and that forgiveness mechanisms are designed to solve problems related to the preservation of valuable relationships despite the prior impositions of harm " . [McCullough, Kurzban, and Tabak, 2012: 2] Our proposed model depicted in Fig. 1 acknowledges the correlates of both relationship value and exploitation risk and, ultimately, links the investor's appraisals of expected relationship value and expected exploitation risk with the decision to forgive. This suggests the presence of a multi-stage model. "
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