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The Science of Spite Explained

Most people aren’t spiteful, but given the opportunity, those with malice lash out to produce the maximum harm, new research suggests.

In the study, researchers used an eBay-like setup where student participants could raise the prices others would pay for items, without necessarily winning the auction. People consistently chose to be vengeful or kind, with little in between, the researchers found.

“We were surprised by how stark the distribution of spitefulness was,” study researcher Erik Kimbrough, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada, told LiveScience. “People either go all out or they don’t act spiteful at all.”

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