Washington D.C. [USA], Dec 19: Contrary to popular belief, aggressive behaviour brings emotional pain to sadists, a recent study has observed. People with sadistic personality traits tend to be aggressive, but only enjoy their aggressive acts if it harms their victims. However, according to a series of studies conducted on 2000 people, these actions ultimately leave sadists feeling worse than they felt before their actions.
"Sadistic tendencies don't just exist in serial killers, but in everyday people and are strongly-linked to greater aggressive behaviour," said David Chester, lead author of the study which is published in the Journal of Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
In the real world, a sadist might be someone bullying others to feel better, or a group of sports fans looking for rival fans to fight for the "excitement" of it. In a lab setting, as part of the study, the scientists gauged people's aggressive and sadistic tendencies by measuring participant's likelihood to seek vengeance or to harm an innocent person.
With each scenario, the researchers found that those with a history of aggression and sadistic behaviour, as measured by personality tests and questionnaires, showed more pleasure in causing harm to others as expected, but they also saw that their overall mood went down following the event. The authors were surprised to see the negative impact on mood.
It may be due to how aggression affects the brain, making people perceive something as pleasurable, when it actually creates the opposite effect, suggests Chester. A deeper understanding of the dynamic emotions that drive sadistic aggression may help people create interventions as well.