As you know, I have a strong interest in group identity and how feelings of group inclusion impact our thoughts and behavior. Usually, we are looking for ways to leverage someone’s group identity – the attributes of groups they feel part of such as their family, friends, religion, country, coworkers, etc. Sometimes, people use an outside group to differentiate themselves and their identity.
In the Hollywood movie version of revenge, our wronged hero justifiably vanquishes the villain. In real life, though, revenge is hardly ever so clear-cut. Aggrieved persons typically do not know, or cannot access, the specific individual who did them wrong. Instead a phenomenon occurs that psychologists call “displaced revenge,” where avengers target a proxy—someone akin to the original transgressor. A new study finds that displaced revenge is sweeter when the target seems to belong to the same group as the wrongdoer.