Posted by & filed under Child Development, General Psychology, Human Development, Moral Development, Personality, Personality Disorders, Personality Disorders.

Description: Before setting up the article that is the focus of this post let me start by saying that, if you have not run across this before, you should look for some of the amazingly descriptive words the German language has for aspects of the human condition. Some have been borrowed into English (like Wanderlust for example). How about Ohrwurm (earworm) as a very apt word to describe a song you cannot get out of your heard or Kummerspeck (grief bacon) to describe the weight bumps that people experience after a breakup. Now, have you heard the word schadenfreude?  It refers to taking pleasure at the misfortune of others and while you would likely not admit it out loud, you have likely felt it at one point or another. If schadenfreude IS a regular (if often denied) human feeling where does it fit into the dimensions of human experience, as in relation to other personality dimensions for example? Think about that for a moment and then go and read the article linked below which talks about an extensive review of research into just what schadenfreude involves and how it fits in human experience and functioning.

Source: Schadenfreude sheds light on the darker side of humanity, Science News, Science Daily.

Date: October 23, 2018

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So, do you understand the concepts associated with schadenfreude (harm/joy) better now? It has facets tying it to aggression, rivalry and justice. What they have in common, according to the researchers may be dehumanization where the ‘other’ being observed is viewed as not deserving of full human status for a variety of possible reasons. There are possible links as well to the ‘dark’ personality traits (discussed in a previous post and include sadism, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Some research also shows that aspects of schadenfreude may be VERY basic to the human condition as infants as young as 8 months of age will “punish” a puppet that behaved in an antisocial manner and suggesting that socialization creates social ties and friendships AND outgroup others to whom positive social bonds and graces may not apply. Understanding the temporary loss of empathy for others that can lead to isolated feelings of schadenfreude may help us to better understand the actions of those who, as a result of personality disorders (the dark sides of personality) experience schadenfreude more as a way of life. Fascinating stuff this schadenfreude!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is schadenfreude?
  2. When might the loss of empathy associated with schadenfreude be defensible (if not appropriate)?
  3. How does schadenfreude fit in with our theories of development and with notions of things like the dark side of personality?

References (Read Further):

Wang, Shensheng, Scott O. Lilienfeld, and Philippe Rochat. “Schadenfreude deconstructed and reconstructed: A tripartite motivational model.” New Ideas in Psychology 52 (2019): 1-11.

Takahashi, H., Kato, M., Matsuura, M., Mobbs, D., Suhara, T., & Okubo, Y. (2009). When your gain is my pain and your pain is my gain: neural correlates of envy and schadenfreude. Science, 323(5916), 937-939.

Leach, C. W., Spears, R., Branscombe, N. R., & Doosje, B. (2003). Malicious pleasure: Schadenfreude at the suffering of another group. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(5), 932.

Li, X., McAllister, D. J., Ilies, R., & Gloor, J. L. (2017). SCHADENFREUDE: A COUNTER-NORMATIVE OBSERVER RESPONSE TO WORKPLACE MISTREATMENT. Academy of Management Review, (ja).

Lange, J., Weidman, A. C., & Crusius, J. (2018). The painful duality of envy: Evidence for an integrative theory and a meta-analysis on the relation of envy and schadenfreude. Journal of personality and social psychology, 114(4), 572.