has shown that people who are not accustomed to holding power are more likely
to be vengeful when placed in charge. Experienced power-holders, on the other
hand, were found to be more tolerant of perceived wrongdoing.
co-led by Dr Mario Weick of the University of Kent, and Dr Peter Strelan, of
the University of Adelaide, Australia, explored for the first time the
relationship between power and revenge.
concluded that revenge and other acts of aggression are more likely to be
enacted by individuals who are new to holding power and feel more vulnerable to
threats, relative to those who feel more self-assured and experienced in their
exercise of power.
How the study
base their conclusions on a series of four experimental studies conducted in
the UK and Australia and involving close to 500 participants drawn from student
populations and the general public. Across all four studies, participants responded
to different transgressions such as plagiarism, negligence, gossiping, and a
drunken violent offence.
participants were exposed to power before the researchers measured
participants' inclination to seek revenge against the perpetrator. Other
participants were not exposed to power, or experienced an episode of
powerlessness, depending on the study.
In all four
studies, after being exposed to power individuals not accustomed to having
power sought more revenge than self-assured individuals who tend to exercise
power more frequently. However, no difference in vengefulness was found in the
group of participants who were not exposed to power, or who experienced a brief
episode of powerlessness.
Dr Weick, of
Kent's School of Psychology, said: 'Our results provide a firm indication of
the relationship between power and revenge. Power is not simply good or bad; it
affects different people in different ways. Our studies highlight some of the
negative effects power can have on people who are less accustomed to being in
'For those more
accustomed to power, on the other hand, the consequences are actually quite
positive as far as people's revenge tendencies are concerned.'
the researchers also showed that it is not only the ability to impact others
that can bring out different inclinations to retaliate in people. Body posture
was also shown to have an effect. In one study, one group of participants stood
upright with an expansive body posture, while another group of participants sat
crouched on the floor. In another study, participants either made a fist, or an
open palm, whilst reading about transgressions.
Dr Weick said:
'Both the expanded body posture and the fist-gesture instilled a sense of power
in participants and led to greater vengeance in people who are less accustomed
to power, compared to more self-assured participants. These differences did not
emerge when participants sat crouched on the floor or made an open-palm
said: 'Our finding may also hold relevance for our understanding of how social
hierarchies are formed and maintained. Fear of retaliation could be one reason
that prevents people at the bottom of hierarchies from acquiring powerful