Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Getting Even

Boy, if life were only like this.
— Woody Allen

In a 2005 interview in TV Guide, comedian Jack Carter described his run-in with Woody Allen.

"He was one of the top writers on The Gary Moore Show, where I was a regular," Carter said. "One day I was on a panel show with Woody and Mickey Rooney, and Woody was picking on Mickey unmercifully. I came to Mickey's defense and attacked Woody, and when we got back to The Gary Moore Show he wrote me out of it quickly. We've been enemies ever since."

Boy, if only you could write people out of the show. Revenge would come easy.

The year before Jack Carter's interview, scientists at the University of Zurich proved revenge doesn't have to come easy to be sweet.

They PET-scanned test-subjects' brains while they played a game. The game involved exchanging money, and the rules allowed any player to penalize another player if he made a greedy move. However, according to the rules, penalties came at a cost to both players.

The scientists found most players penalized selfish ones, even at their own expense.

The PET scans showed penalizing another player activated the dorsal striatum, the part of the brain involved in joy. They also showed a correlation between the strength of that activation and the size of the penalty imposed. Players with strong activations were willing to incur great expense to penalize others who were greedy.

The study suggested that activation of the dorsal striatum reflects an anticipation of joy in punishing people who misbehave. The greater the activation, the more willing you are to get revenge—even at your own expense.

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