When Your Gain Is My Pain and Your Pain Is My Gain……Envy and Schadenfreude

Very interesting….”At the behavioral level in study one, the intensity of envy is modulated by the quality of the possession of the person we compare with and the self-relevance of the comparison domain. That is, if the possession of the target person is superior and the comparison domain is self-relevant, we feel intense envy.”

Abstract (via Northwestern)

We often evaluate the self and others from social comparisons. We feel envy when the target person has superior and self-relevant characteristics. Schadenfreude occurs when envied persons fall from grace. To elucidate the neurocognitive mechanisms of envy and schadenfreude, we conducted two functional magnetic resonance imaging studies. In study one, the participants read information concerning target persons characterized by levels of possession and self-relevance of comparison domains. When the target person’s possession was superior and self-relevant, stronger envy and stronger anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activation were induced. In study two, stronger schadenfreude and stronger striatum activation were induced when misfortunes happened to envied persons. ACC activation in study one predicted ventral striatum activation in study two. Our findings document mechanisms of painful emotion, envy, and a rewarding reaction, schadenfreude.

Introduction (Via NorthWestern)

Envy is one of the seven biblical sins, the Shakespearian “green-eyed monster,” and what Bertrand Russell (1) called an unfortunate facet of human nature. It is an irrational, unpleasant feeling and a “painful emotion” (2) characterized by feelings of inferiority and resentment produced by an awareness of another’s superior quality, achievement, or possessions (3). Understanding envy is important because of its broad implications, ranging from individual matters to social problems. It concerns personal life satisfaction (4), self-evaluation/maintenance (5), and economic and political issues (6–8).We judge objects more by comparison than by their intrinsic worth and value (9), and self-evaluations are often derived from social comparisons with people who are self-relevant, sharing similar attributes, characteristics, group memberships, and interests (for example, gender, age, and social class) (10).

When envy is evoked,we often have a desire to possess the same advantage or may wish that the other lacks it (3).When misfortune occurs to others, emotions can manifest themselves in several ways. We can sympathize and have feelings of concern and sorrow for the other person (11, 12), butwe can also experience schadenfreude, a rewarding feeling derived from another’s misfortune (13). Schadenfreude is closely related to envy, and it ismore likely to arise when misfortune happens to a personwho is advantaged and self-relevant than to someone who is neither advantaged nor self-relevant (13–15).

The Neuroscience of Envy & Schadenfreude (PDF)

About Miguel Barbosa

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17. October 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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