Will sadist profiling stem violence, shooting or terrorist attacks? Experts give it a try

VCU team tried to ask subtle question to know the sadists, revenge-seeking mindset of individuals which they hope will pave the way to counter increasing shooting incidents in the US

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Seeking revenge? Are you a sadist who enjoy hurting others and seeing them in pain. You may reason it out saying they have wronged you. But when researchers ask these questions, nobody admits that they are vengeful or sadists.

The psychology team led by a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology assistant professor David Chester had similar task on hands when they tried to study revenge-seeking persons with their physical aggression, impulsivity and aggressive pleasure.

"We're all slighted in our daily lives, but some of us seek revenge and some of us do not. So what kind of person is the person who seeks vengeance?" asked David Chester of the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU. "The core of what we found is that the person who seeks revenge is a person who tends to enjoy it."

The study, which will appear in a forthcoming edition of the journal "Aggressive Behavior," was conducted by Chester and C. Nathan DeWall, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

The researchers studied 673 students at the University of Kentucky who were asked to say whether they agree or disagree to a variety of statements, such as "Anyone who provokes me deserves the punishment that I give" and "If I'm wronged, I can't live with myself until I revenge."

"A lot of people don't want to admit to having certain traits or tendencies that aren't really savory or socially acceptable," explained Chester on the nature of subtle questions.

After understanding what drives sadists, researchers want to create profiles that could be used to identify those who are most likely to commit violence in public places or schools, so the propriety of expert intervention could be initiated to ward off street shootings and other socially disruptive attacks.

"Not everyone when they're wronged goes out and shoots up a school. Not everyone when they're wronged starts a bar fight. But some people do. So identifying who is most at risk for seeking revenge is really important to do in order to intervene before they engage in harmful acts and start to hurt other people in retaliation," Chester said.

Since this type of information can be used to build a profile of the type of person to look out for, the researchers are hoping an early intervention to prevent them. "If you know which individuals are most at risk of seeking vengeance against others, maybe you could intervene beforehand and prevent the acts of violence from ever happening in the first place," Chester said.

With the world turning violent, exploring the role of the brain and human psychology behind topics such as revenge, domestic abuse and psychopaths who are out to seek revenge or retribution. "Our real world goal is to reduce violence and to reduce aggressive behavior. The most common form of that is revenge," he noted.

This article was first published on December 3, 2017