Self-esteem, self-affirmation, and schadenfreude

Emotion. 2011 Dec;11(6):1445-9. doi: 10.1037/a0026331.


In two studies we demonstrated that self-esteem has a negative relationship with schadenfreude toward a high achiever and that this relationship was mediated by the self-threat evoked by this high achiever. Moreover, we showed that this indirect relationship was contingent on an opportunity to affirm the self. When no self-affirmation opportunity was available, low self-esteem participants experienced a stronger self-threat when confronted with a high achiever, and this self-threat increased their schadenfreude, whereas this response was attenuated when they were given an opportunity to self-affirm. These findings indicate that the misfortunes of others can evoke schadenfreude because they provide people with an opportunity to protect or enhance their self-views.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychological Tests
  • Self Concept*
  • Self-Assessment