Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Revenge

From an article in the New York Times- gives you some idea of why it took so long for our species to civilize itself.

In Sicily there is an oral tradition describing various methods of revenge: tying a man’s feet to his neck so that when he moves, he strangles himself; handcuffing a victim to a bonfire of olive wood; throwing him into a sty with hungry pigs.

Some results from a study by Naci H. Mocan, looking at data on 89,000 people from 53 countries.

Mr. Mocan collected data compiled by a United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute survey from the 1990s and 2000. People were asked what would be an appropriate sentence for a 20-year-old man found guilty of stealing a color television if it was his second offense. The punishments ranged from alternatives to prison through two to six months in jail, all the way to a life sentence. Mr. Mocan tried to take account of the different values of a television in different countries, the effectiveness of the legal system and the going rate, if you will, for other crimes.

The results

Within a given country, people who have been victims of the same kind of crime (here, a burglary) tend to be more vengeful, but not if they have been victims of a different crime, like mugging


vengeful feelings are stronger in countries with low levels of income and education, a weak rule of law and those who recently experienced a war or are ethnically or linguistically fragmented

and that

women turned out to be more vengeful than men. If a woman had been a victim of burglary, she was 10 percent more likely to impose a prison sentence; for men the figure was 5 percent.

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