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Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression, and Take Revenge 1st Edition

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195395143
ISBN-10: 019539514X
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Editorial Reviews


"Overall, this is an interesting and original book--well written and jargon free. For biologists, psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists, as well as generalists who are intestered in such areas." --Library Journal

"Beautifully and elegantly written with an extraordinary breadth of information,
Payback is both enlightening and enriching to read for a wide range of scholars interested
in animal and human behavior." -- Lixing Sun, review in Evolutionary Psychology

"The desire for vengeance is deep-rooted, as the evolutionary biologist David Barash and psychiatrist Judith Lipton, who are married, note in their fascinating new book Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression, and Take Revenge (Oxford University Press, 2011). Not just humans but many animals retaliate against those who threaten or harm them, Barash and Lipton point out." --John Horgan, Scientific American

"The authors use interesting examples from across times and cultures to illustrate their
points throughout the book." -- Helen C. Harton and Zackary Lemka, PsycCRITIQUES

About the Author

David P. Barash, PhD is Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. An evolutionary biologist by training, he has been involved in the development of sociobiology, and is the author or co-author of 29 books.
Judith Eve Lipton, MD is a psychiatrist who has specialized in the biology of human behavior, especially women's issues.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019539514X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195395143
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.8 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,443,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Cebes on August 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
PAYBACK is an example of a newly emerging genre of books, a cross between evolutionary psychology and self-help. The book shares the common flaw of evolutionary psychology when it tries to be an applied science: the evolutionary psychologist seems to think that with a little dose of Darwin he can heal all the world's ills. This book, not at all lacking in ambition, purports to once and for all solve the problem of human violence, explaining "why we retaliate, redirect aggression, and take revenge" (the subtitle).

As with most examples in this genre, the authors take on a triumphal tone: "at last, we have a pretty good idea why" people respond to violence with more violence (23); the "underlying physiological and evolutionary bases" of violence "are only now becoming clear" (171). Of course, hedging their bets, they also follow the traditional strategy of insisting that, even if we don't fully understand it right now, we are right on the verge of a complete explanation, based on a "growing body of evidence." You will however find only the most minimal reference to the vast historical literature on revenge and the causes of human violence. The authors seem to think that nothing written outside a Darwinian framework is of any use. They briefly mention Aristotle, for example, but only in the most condescending terms: "clearly, Aristotle was unaware of ..the physiological basis of retaliation, revenge, and redirected aggression, just as he was necessarily naïve about the likely evolutionary underpinnings" of them (121).

You may have noticed that word "likely" slipping in there.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on July 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Basically, though neither of the husband-and-wife team of authors uses the phrase, this book is a backgrounder evolutionary psychology done right, with a full course of social psychology, on why people usally act back ... in one of three ways ... when attacked either physically or verbally/emotionally.

The "ev psych done right"? Briefly, the authors note that many animals either retaliate against aggression or else redirect it lower down the food chain while we (and chimpanzees) are the only ones so far known to also use revenge. From there, they look at how this affects/relieves stress, in both humans and other animals.

Then it's on to the human social psychology. They ask how this affects ideas of "justice" and more. The chapter on justice, with its looks at retributive and rehabilitative aspects of justice in light of humans' built-in payback propensities, could become a book by itself were the authors of a mind to do so.

Both in humans and animals, besides stress issues, the authors note aggression, and the various ways of dealing with it, relate closely to social status issues. they suggest this is part of why simple apologies often don't satisfy victims. Rather, whether consciously or not, victims are looking for a restoration of lost status, and perhaps a diminution of the aggressor's status. That doesn't happen after a few words.

Finally, the authors look at various religious traditions, as well as modern psychology, to suggest some ideas for forgiveness, for development of better non-retaliation skills and more.

Finally, don't just take my word for it. Any book with good blurbs by Robert Sapolsky and Frans de Wall ... another "Recommend" right there. So dive in!
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Format: Hardcover
Fishes do it; reptiles do it; birds do it; mammals do it; monkeys do it; we do it. It is not about food or sex; it is about passing the pain: A hits B, B hits C, and so on, until the last one in the chain, be it the miserable omega individual in the hierarchy or an inanimate object, absorbs all the pain. For example, your husband's boss has a bad day. He then makes your husband a scapegoat, who then passes his frustration onto you, who then vents on your son, who then claims victim on your family dog. Sounds familiar? As a behavioral biologist, I have read much about revenge, retaliation, and redirected aggression--the so-called 3R's. Yet, I have virtually never heard of anything about passing pain before reading Barash and Lipton's new and provocative book Payback. For such a common phenomenon, it's amazing that anyone who has spent some time working on vertebrates would miss it. Even laypeople with a modest level of curiosity know it well, simply by observing those around. In this sense, the book is both innovative and systematic--innovative for being entirely new in dealing with an egregiously overlooked common behavior and systematic for handling the issue in a methodic and logical manner with an extraordinary breadth and depth. Drawing from a wide range of examples keenly observed by the authors, the book shows us how widespread passing pain is and convinces us why animals, including humans, would pass pain around. You will certainly be impressed by the rich ken of information presented in the book and satisfied with the authors' insightful explanations if you have ever wondered why Indians were victimized in South Africa, Chinese in Indonesia, or Jews in many European countries in history.Read more ›
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