Measuring the Distribution of Spitefulness

Turns out it’s not much of a spectrum. From the abstract:

Spiteful, antisocial behavior may undermine the moral and institutional fabric of society, producing disorder, fear, and mistrust. Previous research demonstrates the willingness of individuals to harm others, but little is understood about how far people are willing to go in being spiteful (relative to how far they could have gone) or their consistency in spitefulness across repeated trials. Our experiment is the first to provide individuals with repeated opportunities to spitefully harm anonymous others when the decision entails zero cost to the spiter and cannot be observed as such by the object of spite.

This method reveals that the majority of individuals exhibit consistent (non) spitefulness over time and that the distribution of spitefulness is bipolar: when choosing whether to be spiteful, most individuals either avoid spite altogether or impose the maximum possible harm on their unwitting victims.  [via PLOS ONE]

I’m not 1000% on the experimental design since I think it leaves room for other MOs aside from spite, even though they operationalized the term- still seems terribly fitting for this experiment. But it’s the first to look at this type of hurtful behavior not using classic social-psych control/punishment paradigms, meaning even when there are limited benefits and no ranks - got your good and ya got your bad. 

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