Schadenfreude as social-functional dominance regulator

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Schadenfreude follows from misfortunes happening to other individuals. It is therefore an essentially social emotion. However, previous research has mainly explored its intrapersonal functions. Complementing these findings, we propose a social-functional approach to schadenfreude. Seven studies (total N 2,362) support that (a) schadenfreude is a reaction to a misfortune befalling an initially dominancedisplaying individual and (b) the public expression of schadenfreude downregulates the dominance of the other person. Specifically, schadenfreude toward initially successful persons was intensified when they displayed dominance (i.e., hubristic pride or general dominance) instead of prestige (i.e., authentic pride or general prestige) or other displays (i.e., embarrassment) following their achievement (Studies 1 to 3). This effect was mediated via inferiors malicious envy (Study 4). The public expression of schadenfreude then reduced the perceived dominance of the initially successful person compared with private expressions of schadenfreude and awkward silence (Studies 5 and 6). This dominance reduction further had downstream consequences for the superior person (Study 7). The findings underline the social functioning of schadenfreude and provide avenues for research on schadenfreude at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intergroup level.

Seiten (von - bis)489-502
Anzahl der Seiten14
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.04.2019

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
Jens Lange and Lea Boecker contributed equally to this article. We report all studies we ever conducted in this line of research, all data exclusions, all manipulations, and all measures. Materials and de-identified data of the project are available on OSF ( The research reported in this article was supported by a grant from the German Research foundation awarded to Jens Lange (DFG; LA 4029/1-1) and another grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG; CR 489/1-1). We are grateful to the Social Cognition Center Cologne for important feedback. We thank Mara Böhl, Anne Clemens, Julia Linden, Marina Orifici, Ida Oster, Olga Passamera, Nicole Przegendza, Marina Schmidt, and Margarete Wolf for their help with data collection. Furthermore, we would like to thank Daniel Jäger for the technical support in programming the emoticon (

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© 2018 American Psychological Association.