It wasn't your fault, but ……”: Schadenfreude about an undeserved misfortune

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Although it is well-established that an objectively deserved misfortune promotes schadenfreude about the misfortune, there is a small body of research suggesting that an undeserved misfortune can also enhance schadenfreude. The aim of the present study was to investigate the processes that underlie schadenfreude about an undeserved misfortune. Participants (N = 61) were asked to respond to a scenario in which a person was responsible or not responsible for a negative action. In the responsible condition, two independent routes to schadenfreude were observed: deservingness of the misfortune (traditional route) and resentment towards the target. More importantly, results showed that when the target of the misfortune was not responsible for the negative action, the relationship between schadenfreude and resentment towards the target was mediated by the re-construal of an objectively undeserved misfortune as a ‘deserved’ misfortune. The study further found that expressing schadenfreude about another’s misfortune makes one feel better about oneself without affecting moral emotions. The findings expand our understanding of schadenfreude about undeserved negative outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)741-748
    Number of pages8
    JournalMotivation and Emotion
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017


    • Moral emotions
    • Re-construed deservingness
    • Resentment
    • Schadenfreude
    • Selfevaluation
    • Undeserved misfortune


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