Schadenfreude Explained: Why We Love Seeing Other People Fail

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Schadenfreude is enjoyment that’s derived from another person’s misfortune. It’s a complicated emotional response which feels good, but how much should it govern our decision making?

Stereotypes and Schadenfreude: Affective and physiological markers of pleasure at outgroup misfortunes
“People often fail to empathize with outgroup members, and sometimes even experience Schadenfreude—pleasure—in response to their misfortunes. One potent predictor of Schadenfreude is envy. According to the Stereotype Content Model, envy is elicited by groups whose stereotypes comprise status and competitiveness.”

When your gain is my pain and your pain is my gain: neural correlates of envy and schadenfreude.
“We are usually motivated to maintain a positive self-concept, and we feel discomfort when our self-concept is threatened by others who outperform ourselves in a self-relevant domain. Considering the role of dACC in conflict monitoring, the association between envy and dACC activation suggests that envy is a condition in which information recognized by social comparison conflicts with positive self-concept. Experiencing discomfort motivates us to reduce it.”

Comprehending envy.
“The authors reviewed the psychological research on envy. The authors examined definitional challenges associated with studying envy, such as the important distinction between envy proper (which contains hostile feelings) and benign envy (which is free of hostile feelings). The authors concluded that envy is reasonably defined as an unpleasant, often painful emotion characterized by feelings of inferiority, hostility, and resentment caused by an awareness of a desired attribute enjoyed by another person or group of persons.”

Your brain is extremely complex and it influences the way you think and the choices that you make. Thought Process examines how your brain behaves when it encounters events and actions, both positive and negative, and how that directly affects who you are. This is your brain on conflict, failure, nostalgia, power, money and more.

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Special thanks to Mamoudou N’Diaye for hosting and writing this episode of Seeker!

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