The role of self-evaluation and envy in schadenfreude

W.W. van Dijk, J.W. Ouwerkerk, R.H. Smith, M Cikara

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


In this article we address why and when people feel schadenfreude (pleasure at the misfortunes of others) in both interpersonal and intergroup contexts. Using findings from our own research programmes we show that schadenfreude is intensified when people are chronically or momentarily threatened in their self-worth, whereas it is attenuated when their self-evaluation is boosted; that malicious envy, but not benign envy, intensifies pleasure at the misfortunes of others; that these emotional responses are manifested in intergroup contexts via the same mechanisms; and that mere stereotypes, in the absence of any interaction or overt competition, are sufficient to elicit schadenfreude via such mechanisms. Together, these findings suggest that self-evaluation and envy both play an important role in evoking schadenfreude; people feel pleasure at the misfortunes of others when these misfortunes provide them with social comparisons that enhance their feelings of self-worth or remove the basis for painful feelings of envy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-282
JournalEuropean Review of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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