Schadenfreude as a mate-value-tracking mechanism

Authors


  • Leisha A. Colyn, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University; Anne K. Gordon, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University.

    A portion of the research reported in this article was completed as Leisha Colyn's master's thesis.

Correspondence should be addressed to Leisha Colyn or Anne Gordon, Bowling Green State University, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green, OH 43403, e-mail: leisha.colyn@gmail.com (LC); akg@bgsu.edu (AG).

Abstract

This study proposed a new theoretical formulation of schadenfreude as a psychological mechanism that responds to misfortunes that lower competitors' mate value. In Study 1, participants reported schadenfreude in response to their friends' naturally occurring and hypothetical misfortunes. In Study 2, participants reported schadenfreude in response to an envied friend experiencing a hypothetical misfortune linked with female or male mate value. As predicted, females in both studies reported more schadenfreude when a same-gender friend experienced a misfortune that lowered her physical attractiveness versus social status. Less consistent support was found for the prediction that males would report more schadenfreude when a same-gender friend experienced a misfortune that lowered his social status versus physical attractiveness. This study suggests several directions for future research.

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