Alternate titles: Revenge.

Problem summary

People repay in kind


  • Use when revenge can be encouraged to enforce positive and playful play; to beat friends in games or challenges.
  • Do not use when the act of revenge will end in a combative feud where only one winner remains with a joyful memory

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  • Give before you ask. Demonstrate the value you have to offer before asking users to convert into paying customers. Asking too early can backfire into bad reputation. Start by giving before taking in order to get users to reciprocate.
  • Build a relationship first. Asking before providing trust in your intentions can create suspicion and make users reluctant to cooperate.
  • Don’t be evil. The negative emotional value of a transactional loss of $100 is at least twice as much as the positive emotional value of a $100 gain. Acts of retaliation also tend to be equally larger than acts of positively giving back.


If we feel we have been treated unfairly, we have an urge to want everyone else to know what that person did to us. Loss Aversion plays into this, as we perceive the value of a loss much greater than we do with gains and thus reciprocate more with anger than with joy.


Retaliation is negative reciprocity. Fehr and Gächter showed that, when acting within reciprocal frameworks, individuals are more likely to deviate from purely self-interested behavior than when acting in other social contexts. Treachery is often repaid with disproportionate amounts of hostility and vengeance.

1 Fehr and Gächter (2000). “Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity”. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 14 (3): 159–182.

User Interface Design Patterns