Scientific Revenge?

The post arguing in favor of signing reviews drew a fair bit of skepticism and criticism.  The basic tenet of those who think anonymity is the best policy is that risking revenge is simply far too dangerous to allow identification.  And it would seem the New York Times is somewhat in agreement; a piece this past week on vengeance seems to argue that nearly everybody seeks revenge for perceived wrongs. Ironically, then, the piece goes on to point out that seeking vengeance is ultimately futile:

Rather than inflicting suffering, it turns out that what victims really want is remorse from the person who wronged them, along with a heartfelt apology, which includes a promise to reform and rectify the situation as much as possible. Ironically, such reconciliation is far less likely after a vengeful act. If anything, vengeance escalates the conflict, leading to an increasingly malicious game of tit for tat.

“The only lesson a person learns after you take your pound of flesh is ‘Wow, you’re a real jerk for doing that,’ ” Professor Tripp said. “The problem with revenge in interpersonal situations is the victim is the accuser, detective, judge, jury and executioner, which inevitably leads to miscarriages of justice.”

Huh.  There’s no winning.

Take it how you will. One view is that sniping from behind anonymity will prevent the tit-for-tat war.  Another is that it only encourages wholesale machine-gunning of all possible suspects. It would be nice if we could somehow accept criticism as, well, criticism of work and not a personal attack.

Oh yeah, and editors and program directors, it’s a reminder to try and impose civility on anonymous reviews.

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