I fear your envy, I rejoice in your coveting: on the ambivalent experience of being envied by others

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Nov;99(5):842-54. doi: 10.1037/a0020965.


We present 2 studies on being envied. Study 1 used an emotional narrative methodology. We asked 44 Spanish (23 women, 21 men) and 48 European American (36 women, 12 men) participants to tell us about a recent experience in which others envied them. We classified the antecedents, relationship context, markers of envy, coping strategies, and positive and negative implications of being envied. In Study 2, 174 Spanish (88 women, 86 men) and 205 European American (106 women, 99 men) participants responded to a situation in which they had something someone else wanted. We manipulated the object of desire (academic achievement or having "a better life"). We measured individual differences in orientation to achievement (i.e., vertical individualism), cooperation and interpersonal harmony (i.e., horizontal collectivism), a zero-sum view of success, beliefs that success begets hostile coveting, fear of success, and dispositional envy. We also measured participants' appraisals, positive and negative emotions, and coping strategies. The findings from both studies indicate that being envied has both positive (e.g., increased self-confidence) and negative consequences (e.g., fear of ill will from others). Being envied had more positive and more negative psychological and relational consequences among those participants who were achievement oriented (European Americans) than among participants who were oriented to cooperation and interpersonal harmony (Spanish).

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Culture
  • Emotions*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Jealousy*
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult