More Than a Feeling

I used to have a roommate who would stay up til the wee hours of the night typing instant messages to her boyfriend and listening to really lame music while I was trying to sleep. She knew I had to get up early, but my well-being wasn't nearly as important to her as those late night IM conversations.

Once I reached my breaking point, I decided that I would be obnoxiously loud when I woke up in the morning so I could disturb her sleep the way she disturbed mine. I would let the alarm blare while I was in the shower, dry my hair for a good 20 minutes and turn on all the lights. Sometimes I'd listen to Zeppelin without headphones. When I left the room in the morning, I felt really good despite my heavy eyelids. This was my revenge, and it went on for a whole semester until I decided to move out.

Revenge is sweet. Most of us believe in that old adage, but now there's a study that actually proves it. According to scientists at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, revenge is linked to the area of the brain associated with enjoyment and satisfaction. In the study, researchers monitored the brain waves of seven pairs of men as they played a game involving the exchange of money. When one of the players was cheated out of money, he would be asked if he wanted to punish his partner.

The men were given a minute to reach their decision, and during that time the scientists monitored their brain using Positron Emission Tomography scanners. In six out of seven cases, the cheater was punished by his partner. During the reprimand, the area of the brain known to be involved with enjoyment and satisfaction was activated. The scientists concluded that there is a satisfaction associated with punishing norm violations. Study co-author Dr. Ernst Fehr stated that "punishing makes us feel less bad" (he's Swiss).

Now, sweet revenge is all well and good, but sometimes revenge is taken a bit too far. Vengeful murder, vandalism and attacking Iraq are good examples of misdirected revenge. Refusing to let an Illinois driver merge onto I-94 after the Cubs beat the Brewers in Milwaukee is not.

I found this study particularly interesting because a lot of my friends are having "roommate issues." I believe sweet, simple revenge is a great way to deal with a pain-in-the-ass roommate. If your roommate's love for whiney emo music makes you cringe, blast a little X-tina. If your roommate keeps forgetting to buy toilet paper, carry a role in your backpack for yourself until he caves. If your roommate keeps borrowing your clothes without asking, wear her good shoes to a party and spill beer on them.

These little mind games will leave you feeling a little less irritated and a lot more empowered. Remember, punishing makes us feel less bad, as long as no one gets hurt.

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