Envy up, scorn down: How comparison divides us

Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


Comparison compels people, even as it stresses, depresses, and divides us. Comparison is only natural, but the collateral damage reveals envy upward and scorn downward, and these emotions, arguably, poison people and their relationships. Summaries of several experiments-using questionnaire, psychometric, response-time, electromyographic, and neuroimaging data-illustrate the dynamics of envy up and scorn down, as well as proposing how to mitigate their effects. Initial studies suggest the importance of status. Other data show how scorn down minimizes thought about another's mind; power deactivates mental concepts. Regarding envy up, other studies demonstrate that Schadenfreude (malicious joy) targets envied outgroups. However, counterstereotypic information, empathy, and outcome dependency can mitigate both scorn and envy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-706
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • Envy
  • Power
  • Scorn
  • Social comparison
  • Status


Dive into the research topics of 'Envy up, scorn down: How comparison divides us'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this