Deservingness and Schadenfreude

Norman Feather

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    When a person suffers a negative outcome and fails to achieve a desired goal, those who observe that outcome may experience a range of emotions. They may feel distressed and sympathetic, especially if the other person is a close acquaintance or a friend. They may feel angry and resentful about the fact that the negative event occurred if they believe that the other person was a victim and that the outcome violated moral values and social norms. They may also feel schadenfreude or happiness about the other person’s misfortune, believing the negative outcome to be justified and deserved. I propose that a key variable that influences all of these emotions is perceived deservingness. The way we react emotionally to the outcomes of others is associated with how deserved or undeserved we believe the outcomes are. Our beliefs about deservingness influence not only the way we feel about the negative outcomes that another person experiences, they also influence our feelings about the other’s positive outcomes. Perceived deservingness is also an important variable that affects the way we feel about our own good of bad outcomes. These are strong claims, but they are justified by research findings and indeed by our own everyday experiences when we react to life events involving another person or self. Perceived deservingness has widespread effects on the emotions that we experience and these effects have only recently been investigated in systematic empirical research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSchadenfreude - Understanding pleasure at the misfortune of others
    Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding Pleasure at the Misfortune of Others
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages29
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139084246
    ISBN (Print)9781107017504
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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