David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780195395143
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780190255763 | DOI:

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From the child taunted by her playmates to the office worker who feels stifled in his daily routine, people frequently take out their pain and anger on others, even those who had nothing to do with the original stress. Payback can be directed anywhere, sometimes at inanimate things, animals, or other people. This book looks at this phenomenon, showing how it has evolved, why it occurs, and what we can do about it. Retaliation and revenge are well known to most people. What is new in this book is an extended discussion of redirected aggression, which occurs not only in people but other species as well. The book reveals that it is not just a matter of yelling at your spouse “because” your boss yells at you. Indeed, the phenomenon of redirected aggression haunts our criminal courts, streets, battlefields, homes, and hearts. It lurks behind some of the nastiest and seemingly inexplicable things that otherwise decent people do. And it exists across boundaries of every kind—culture, time, geography, and even species. It is not just a human phenomenon. Passing pain to others can be seen in virtually all vertebrates. There is robust neurobiological hardware and software promoting redirected aggression, as well as evolutionary underpinnings. Payback may be natural, the book concludes, but we are capable of rising above it, without sacrificing self-esteem and social status. The book shows how the various human responses to pain and suffering can be managed—mindfully, carefully, and humanely.

Keywords: pain; anger; stress; payback; retaliation; revenge; redirected aggression

Book.  224 pages. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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