Multiple versus single immoral acts: an immoral person evokes more schadenfreude than an immoral action

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Abstract

A small body of research has investigated the relationship between an immoral disposition and schadenfreude. Less work has investigated the relationship between immoral behavior and schadenfreude. The aim of the present study was to separate out dispositional and behavioral attributions by both manipulation and measurement and thereby to investigate individual pathways to schadenfreude. Participants (Study 1: N = 281, Study 2: N = 271) were presented with a scenario that described a single immoral act or multiple immoral acts. The latter resulted in greater attributions to dispositional immorality. Importantly, dispositional immorality attributions were found to predict schadenfreude, but behavioral immorality attributions had no independent effect on schadenfreude. The pathways to schadenfreude were partly mediated by condemning emotions directed at the person but not by condemning emotions directed at the behavior. These findings expand our understanding of the psychological processes that underlie schadenfreude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-754
Number of pages17
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Volume44
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Behavioral and dispositional attributions
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Other-condemning emotions
  • Schadenfreude

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