When it comes to those close to us, we often quickly forgive and forget a deep offense—but if someone we don't know harms us slightly, we'll nurse our anger far longer. So suggests new research on our ability to hold grudges, io9 reports. Researchers asked participants to write personal stories that they believed would be exchanged with a partner. After exchanging stories, participants would deduce what they could about their partners' personalities. Half the participants were told they'd meet their partner after the exchange; half were told they wouldn't meet again.
The twist: During the process, participants were insulted by their partners. Researchers asked participants how they felt about their "buddy"; unsurprisingly, not so good. But after five minutes, things changed. Participants who believed they were due to meet partners later began to forgive them, whereas those who never had to deal with their partners again kept fuming. The authors theorize that we're essentially protecting ourselves. We won't hold a grudge if it means future pain, as in the case of a loved one—but, as Esther Inglis-Arkell writes, "if a hurt is minor, we can let it fester." Click for her full piece; the study is here. (Read more psychology stories.)