Spiteful behavior is 'extreme', according to study

August 15, 2012

Given the option to commit spiteful acts, reducing the money payoffs of others at no cost to themselves, many people avoid acting spitefully, but those that do, consistently impose the maximum harm, according to research reported on Aug. 15 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The authors, Erik Kimbrough of Simon Fraser University in Canada and Philipp Reiss of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, created an artificial auction market scenario, with participants "bidding" for objects and having the opportunity to raise the price paid by others, to test the frequency and extent of spiteful behavior among 48 student participants.

Their results show extremes of spiteful and non-spiteful behavior across all participants, but individual spitefulness is typically consistent over time.

"We found it astonishing to see that people chose to be either maximally or minimally spiteful with really no one choosing something in between, and the fact that most people didn't change their over time suggests that we're seeing something pretty fundamental", say the authors.

Explore further: Spiteful soldiers and sex ratio conflict among parasitoid wasps

More information: Kimbrough EO, Reiss JP (2012) Measuring the Distribution of Spitefulness. PLoS ONE 7(8): e41812. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041812

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1.8 / 5 (4) Aug 15, 2012
Typical students...I wonder how grown-ups respond (more responsibly, perhaps??)
2.5 / 5 (4) Aug 15, 2012
Briefly speaking, some people are psychopaths in similar way, like some individuals here.
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 16, 2012
Life is extreme. Commentators, for example, are either above the norm or below it. The norm is an unstable repeller. Hence I rank posts either 5 or 1 99% of the time.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2012
averages for extremes yield nonsense. life isn't a set of normally distributed behaviors. it is anything but.
2 / 5 (4) Aug 16, 2012
The norm is an unstable repeller
The voting is workconsuming by itself, so it has no meaning to label the posts with 3 points at the moment, when you see nothing exceptional about it. From this bias you can gen an impression, the people are attracted to extremes by their very nature. They aren't - the average people aren't just so loud and visible.

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