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'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' brings neither success nor happiness

Vindictiveness doesn't pay. This has been demonstrated by a study at Bonn and Maastricht Universities. A person inclined to deal with inequity on a tit-for-tat basis tends to experience more unemployment than other people. Vindictive people also have less friends and are less satisfied with their lives. The study appears in the Economic Journal.

We tend to live by the motto "tit for tat". We repay an invitation to dinner with a counter-invitation; when a friend helps us to move house, we help to move his furniture a few months later. On the other hand, we repay meanness in the same coin. Scientists speak here of reciprocity. A person who repays friendly actions in a like manner is said to behave with positive reciprocity, and one who avenges unfairness acts with negative reciprocity.

The researchers in Bonn used this instrument to discover something about the attitudes to reciprocity of the participants in the study. They were to state, for example, to what extent they would repay a favour or, on the other hand, an insult on a tit-for-tat basis. "Both positive and negative reciprocity are widespread ...", declares Professor Dr. Armin Falk of Bonn University, summarising the results. 

Positively reciprocal people perform more over time

"Vindictiveness is not a maxim to be recommended. Anyone who prefers to act according to the Old Testament motto of 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' has on average less friends – and is clearly less than satisfied with his or her life.

University of Bonn / Universität Maastricht  

Or as Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."

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