One Group's Pain is another Group's Pleasure: Examining Schadenfreude in Response to Failures of Football Teams during the World Cup 2018

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Objectives: The failures of sport teams evoke strong emotions in spectators ranging from empathetic to unempathetic. The present work investigates how naturally varying group membership of participants (their nationality), disliking, social rank attainment (via dominance or prestige), and deservingness predict schadenfreude (= pleasure in response to another's misfortune) and sympathy in a highly relevant real-life sport event. Design: I employed a quasi-experimental design and used the failure of the German national football team in the World Cup 2018 at group stage (Study 1) and the English team in the semifinals (Study 2) to investigate which variables (disliking, deservingness, dominance, and prestige) predict schadenfreude and mediate the effect of group membership (same versus different nationality as the failing team) on schadenfreude. Results: Between-group comparisons revealed that outgroup members expressed more schadenfreude and less sympathy than ingroup members. Furthermore, disliking, deservingness, and dominance, but not prestige positively predicted schadenfreude. The mediator disliking explained most of the differences in schadenfreude between ingroup and outgroup members in Study 1 (in which a relatively high-ranking team failed already at group stage) as well as in Study 2 (in which a relatively low-ranking team failed only in the semifinals, representing a rather mild failure). Conclusions: The studies document divergent affective reactions of individuals merely differing in their national group membership. Dominance perceptions seem to vary with observers’ group membership. I discuss the relative impact of each variable, the function of intergroup schadenfreude and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101992
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Disliking, Emotions, Football, Group membership, Schadenfreude, Social rank attainment
  • Business psychology