An Eyelash for an Eye: Understanding the Motivation For and Consequences of Petty Revenge

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15 Apr 2024

10:00 -11:30

Times are shown in local time.

Open to: All

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Room W4.05 (Cambridge Judge Business School)

Trumpington St



United Kingdom

Join our Organisational Behaviour seminar

Speaker: Dr Gabrielle Adams, University of Virginia

Organisational Behaviour.

About the seminar topic

A central principle in retributive justice is that revenge should be proportional to the original transgression. It seems logical, then, that victims who enact revenge that is less than proportional to the original transgression should feel that justice has not been restored and should feel dissatisfied. In the current paper, we challenge this assumption. Across 4 experiments, we investigate the phenomenon of “petty revenge” – defined as less-than-proportional retaliation to another’s perceived harm. We investigate its antecedents and find that victims enact petty revenge when they face constraints in their ability to pursue punishment through formal channels. We also investigate the consequences of petty revenge in 2 scenario studies as well as a lab study in which victims pay their transgressors in pennies rather than dollar bills. Victims who enact petty revenge (vs. no revenge) experienced increased schadenfreude and are less likely to ruminate about the offence. Moreover, compared to proportional revenge, avengers who enact petty revenge experience less guilt and are less likely to avoid their transgressors. We discuss the implications of this work for justice restoration and avengers’ relational and emotional goals in organisational and interdependent contexts.

Speaker bio

Gabrielle Adams is a behavioural scientist who studies the processes and dynamics that give rise to good decisions, policies, and conditions in organisations. She currently holds an appointment as Associate Professor of Public Policy and Business Administration at the University of Virginia, with a courtesy appointment in the Psychology department. Her research on decision-making and interpersonal dynamics has been published in journals such as Nature, Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and has been the subject of articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Harvard Business Review, and covered on NPR, the BBC and CBC. She has written op-eds and articles for the Wall Street Journal; the Washington Post; and Harvard Business Review. 

Dr Adams is currently an associate editor at OBHDP. She is also a non-executive director at DataEQ, VEL, Lumina, and Oli, and an affiliate at ideas42.

Raised in California, Professor Adams holds a BA with Honors (Psychology, Philosophy) from Colby College and a PhD in Business Administration from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.


No registration required. If you have any questions about this seminar, please email Luke Slater.