Source: (2009) Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 45:840-844.

The present article investigates the conditions under which vengeful episodes are satisfactory for the victim/ avenger. Two hypotheses are tested simultaneously: (1) victims are satisfied if they see the offender suffer, even if this suffering was imposed by fate (‘‘comparative suffering” hypothesis) and (2) victims are satisfied if the offender signals that he understands why revenge was imposed upon him (‘‘understanding” hypothesis). A laboratory experiment is described in which the source of the offender’s suffering (revenge vs. fate) and the offender’s understanding for the cause of his suffering were varied. As an implicit measure of goal fulfillment, participants completed a lexical decision task that measured the relative accessibility of aggression-related words (compared to non-aggressive words). The results corroborate the understanding hypothesis: Participants showed higher levels of implicit goal fulfillment if they decided to take revenge and if the offender signaled understanding for the vengeful response. The findings are discussed with regard to the question what people hope to achieve when they take revenge. (author's abstract)