Taking one for the team: Physiological trajectories of painful intergroup retaliation

Elizabeth M. Niedbala, Zachary P. Hohman, Breanna N. Harris, Alexandra C. Abide

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Retaliating against a threatening outgroup offers group members specific rewards, such as restored group esteem, a reduction in anger, and a sense of gratification. Because retaliation is rewarding, group members may appraise an attack on the outgroup to be beneficial, even if it feels physically painful. We hypothesized that group members would be more willing to endure pain to retaliate against a threatening outgroup, and that appraising the painful retaliation as rewarding would down-regulate their physiological stress response to pain. Participants were manipulated to feel threatened by a rival group and then completed the cold-pressor. During the cold-pressor, participants either retaliated against the outgroup or not. Results showed that retaliation inhibited physiological responses to pain, alleviated intergroup anger, and felt less aversive. We propose that these responses are caused by a cognitive reappraisal of pain, where painful retaliation is expected to be rewarding instead of threatening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-284
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Cortisol
  • Intergroup relations
  • Outgroup threat
  • Pain
  • Reappraisal
  • Retaliation


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