Schadenfreude May Come in 3 Flavors, Some Meaner Than Others

  • 2018-11-02
  • Live Science

If you've ever reveled in the misfortune of another, you've experienced what the Germans call "schadenfreude." But which kind did you experience?

A new paper argues that there are three subtypes of schadenfreude, some of which might seem more defensible morally than others. People can experience glee in others' pain out of a genuine desire for justice, researchers wrote in an upcoming issue of the journal New Ideas in Psychology. Or people can be motivated by us-versus-them dynamics or even by petty personal jealousies.

But feelings of schadenfreude don't emerge only when someone seemingly deserves it. People also feel the emotion about things like sports, Wang said, gaining pleasure when a rival team hits a losing streak.

Other studies had hinted that people might experience schadenfreude alongside envy or that they might be most prone to schadenfreude when the victim of misfortune was "the other" — someone not like them.