Stereotypes and schadenfreude

Mina Cikara, Susan Tufts Fiske

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


But it is Schadenfreude, a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, which remains the worst trait in human nature … In general, it may be said that it takes the place which pity ought to take – pity which is its opposite, and the true source of all real justice and charity … Envy, although it is a reprehensible feeling, still admits of some excuse, and is, in general, a very human quality; whereas the delight in mischief [Schadenfreude] is diabolical, and its taunts are the laughter of hell. Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, volume II, Chapter VIII (On Ethics), section 114) People perceive others’ misfortunes everyday; yet how people respond to another person’s pain is strongly affected by their pre-existing prejudices about the individual experiencing the outcome. In many cases people experience pity or empathy when they see other people suffering, but this responses is not universal (Cikara, Bruneau, and Saxe, 2011). Schadenfreude is the dark side of people’s response to another’s troubles, referring to the perceiver’s experience of pleasure at another’s misfortune (Heider, 1958). At least three conditions commonly predict schadenfreude (Smith et al., 2009): when observers gain from the misfortune (Smith et al., 2006; Van Dijk and Ouwerkerk, Chapter 1 in this volume); when another’s misfortune seems deserved (Ben-Ze’ev, Chapter 5 in this volume; Feather, 1999, 2006, and Chapter 3 in this volume; Feather and Nairn, 2005; Portmann, Chapter 2 in this volume; Van Dijk et al., 2005); and when a misfortune befalls an envied person (Smith, Thielke, and Powell, Chapter 6, this volume; Smith et al., 1996; Takahashi et al., 2009).

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationSchadenfreude
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding Pleasure at the Misfortune of Others
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781139084246
ISBN (Print)9781107017504
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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