Exploring the When and Why of Schadenfreude



We summarize the empirical work on schadenfreude, or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune. Although schadenfreude is a socially undesirable emotion, research reveals at least three conditions in which it commonly arises. One condition is when observers gain from the misfortune. We discuss research showing that gains in ingroup outcomes based on the failures of rival outgroups can create schadenfreude, especially for those highly identified with their ingroups. A second condition is when another's misfortune is deserved. We focus on research showing that the misfortunes of hypocrites are perceived as highly deserved and therefore create schadenfreude in observers. A third condition is when a misfortune befalls an envied person. We summarize studies showing that the core ingredients of envy prime the envying person for schadenfreude when the envied person suffers.