When envy leads to schadenfreude

Niels van de Ven*, Charles E. Hoogland, Richard H. Smith, Wilco W. Van Dijk, Seger M. Breugelmans, Marcel Zeelenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Previous research has yielded inconsistent findings concerning the relationship between envy and schadenfreude. Three studies examined whether the distinction between benign and malicious envy can resolve this inconsistency. We found that malicious envy is related to schadenfreude, while benign envy is not. This result held both in the Netherlands where benign and malicious envy are indicated by separate words (Study 1: Sample A, N = 139; Sample B, N = 150), and in the USA where a single word is used to denote both types (Study 2, N = 180; Study 3, N = 349). Moreover, the effect of malicious envy on schadenfreude was independent of other antecedents of schadenfreude (such as feelings of inferiority, disliking the target person, anger, and perceived deservedness). These findings improve our understanding of the antecedents of schadenfreude and help reconcile seemingly contradictory findings on the relationship between envy and schadenfreude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1025
Number of pages19
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2015


  • Benign envy
  • Deservedness
  • Envy
  • Malicious envy
  • Schadenfreude
  • Social comparison


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