Gender differences in revenge and strategic play: a natural experiment (with Emma Heikensten and Siri Isaksson)

How we choose to respond following an attack sends a strong signal to our surroundings. A person who is quick to retaliate might ward off future aggressions whereas one who doesn’t may invite more. Thus, success could crucially depend on how we choose to react once attacked. Yet, research on differences in the propensity to retaliate is scarce. Using game show data from a natural setting where stakes are high, we ask whether men are more likely to retaliate following an attack and whether the gender of the target matters for this decision. We observe a 25 percent gender gap in the propensity to retaliate. In other words, women are considerably less likely to seek revenge. The gender of the target matters for women but not for men: women are more likely to retaliate against men.