Participants (Study 1: N = 138, Study 2: N = 153) responded to a video in which a person suffered a mishap. The studies manipulated whether or not the person was responsible for the mishap and the degree to which the consequences were subsequently found to be serious. Results of Study 1 showed reduction in schadenfreude and more compassion for the victim in the serious condition due to appraisals that it was immoral to laugh about the misfortune. The stronger these appraisals and the stronger the initial schadenfreude, the stronger were moral emotions (guilt, shame, and regret) about initially expressed schadenfreude. Moral emotions and compassion fostered prosocial behavior. Study 2 extended these results by showing that seriousness of the consequences acted as a moderator for most of these findings with significant effects occurring in the serious condition only. Most reduction in schadenfreude occurred when the consequences were serious and when the person was less responsible for the misfortune. The studies extend past research by investigating schadenfreude and other emotions in a context that does not involve social comparison and where participants reflected on their initial expressions of schadenfreude.
- Moral appraisals
- Prosocial behavior