Group Schadenfreude – How Groups Enjoy Other's Misery
Via Emily Anthes
Scientists who study schadenfreude are learning that this secret happiness at another person’s loss has biological underpinnings. The feeling registers in the brain as a distinct form of pleasure, a satisfaction comparable to that of eating a good meal.
In a study published in 2009 neuroscientist Hidehiko Takahashi of Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences and his colleagues asked 19 adult volunteers to read scenarios describing the successes and misfortunes of fictional characters and to report their feelings about these people. Meanwhile Takahashi’s team scanned their brain using functional MRI. The researchers found that when the participants reported feeling envy, a brain region known as the anterior cingulate cortex became unusually active. The anterior cingulate plays a role in processing physical pain, suggesting that envy is an unpleasant experience. On the other hand, feeling schadenfreude activated the striatum, a brain region involved in processing rewards. Thinking bad thoughts can feel good.