Stereotypes and schadenfreude: Affective and physiological markers of pleasure at outgroup misfortunes

Mina Cikara, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


People often fail to empathize with outgroup members, and sometimes even experience Schadenfreude-pleasure-in response to their misfortunes. One potent predictor of Schadenfreude is envy. According to the stereotype content model, envy is elicited by groups whose stereotypes comprise status and competitiveness. These are the first studies to investigate whether stereotypes are sufficient to elicit pleasure in response to high-status, competitive targets' misfortunes. Study 1 participants feel least negative when misfortunes befall high-status, competitive targets as compared to other social targets; participants' facial muscles simultaneously exhibit a pattern consistent with positive affect (i.e., smiling). Study 2 attenuates the Schadenfreude response by manipulating status and competition-relevant information; Schadenfreude decreases when the target-group member has lowered status or is cooperative. Stereotypes' specific content and not just individual relationships with targets themselves can predict Schadenfreude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology


  • emotion
  • intergroup processes
  • social cognition
  • status
  • stereotypes


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