Their pain, our pleasure: stereotype content and schadenfreude

Mina Cikara, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


People often fail to empathize with others, and sometimes even experience schadenfreude-pleasure at others' misfortunes. One potent predictor of schadenfreude is envy, which, according to the stereotype content model, is elicited by high-status, competitive targets. Here we review our recent research program investigating the relationships among stereotypes, envy, schadenfreude, and harm. Experiment 1 demonstrates that stereotypes are sufficient to influence affective responses to targets' misfortunes; participants not only report feeling less negative when misfortunes befall high-status, competitive targets as compared to other targets, they also smile more (assessed with facial EMG). Experiment 2 replicates the self-report findings from Experiment 1 and assesses behavioral tendencies toward envied targets; participants are more willing to endorse harming high-status, competitive targets as compared to other targets. Experiment 3 turns off the schadenfreude response by manipulating status and competition-relevant information regarding envied targets. Finally, Experiment 4 investigates affective and neural markers of intergroup envy and schadenfreude in the context of a long-standing sports rivalry and the extent to which neurophysiological correlates of schadenfreude are related to self-reported likelihood of harming rival team fans. We conclude with implications and future directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-59
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • envy
  • harm
  • prejudice
  • schadenfreude
  • stereotypes


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