The Temptation of Vengeance

Thirst for vengeance is widespread; its actual enactment, fortunately, is much less pervasive. A key topic in history and literature, revenge also plays a major role in everyday life notwithstanding its bad reputation and the criticism levelled at those who engage in it. Social stigma and legal penalties are not enough to offset the desire to witness the suffering of those who have made us suffer and therefore prevent vendetta-seeking behaviour. But what exactly does vengeance mean? What pushes the Count of Montecristo to transform his life into a relentless search for revenge? What are the costs and benefits, for individuals and society as a whole, of this type of behaviour? This book explains the psychological mechanisms underlying vengeance, the needs it satisfies and why it is so difficult to renounce.

Francesca Giardini is a researcher at the Italian National Research Council’s Cognition Science and Technologies Institute in Rome, where she studies the cognitive mechanisms of social behaviour, including reputation, co-operation and revenge.