Experiences of humiliation, unjust hurt by another or anger naturally elicit the desire to seek revenge (Haen and Weber, 2009; Morrissette, 2012; Fatfouta and Merkl, 2014). This desire is considered to be a universal personal response in all human cultures (McClelland, 2010). The desire for revenge; namely, to cause the perpetrator to suffer (Watson, 2015), does not cease until it is recognized and released in one way or another (Fatfouta and Merkl, 2014). The greater the harm and transgression caused to the victim, and the more the victim perceives the perpetrator’s responsibility for the harm, the greater the desire for revenge (van Denderen et al., 2014). The desire to seek revenge first appears during childhood (Haen and Weber, 2009). Children as young as nine are capable of retaliatory decision-making. They can consider factors such as whether the harm was purposeful, the type of retaliation desired, and the age difference between the perpetrator and the victim (Haen and Weber, 2009; Lillie and Strelan, 2016). However, the urge to retaliate for wrongs persists throughout adulthood (Bloom, 2001).
Regardless of whether the victim has an emotional connection to the perpetrator, the level of the desire for revenge depends on the severity of the transgression toward the victim (Schumann and Ross, 2010; Morrissette, 2012; McCullough et al., 2013). The level of the desire for revenge also impacts the behavior of the victim toward or in the presence of the perpetrator. This can range from attempts at total avoidance to an obsession with the perpetrator and the hurt (Grobbink et al., 2015; Watson, 2015). However, when the victim knows the perpetrator and has an emotional attachment, the level of revenge is thought to be contingent upon the desire to preserve the relationship with the perpetrator and feelings toward him or her. The greater the desire to preserve the relationship, the greater the tendency to either deny the hurt or forgive the perpetrator (Watson et al., 2016).