The neural substrate of schadenfreude: The effects of competition level changes on the processing of pain in others


New Ideas in Psychology, vol.62, 2021 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 62
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.newideapsych.2021.100853
  • Journal Name: New Ideas in Psychology
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, ASSIA, Periodicals Index Online, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, Psycinfo
  • Keywords: Schadenfreude, Electroencephalography, Event related potentials, Empathy for pain, STEREOTYPE CONTENT, HUMAN EMPATHY, RESPONSES, ENVY, EMOTIONS, PLEASURE, INGROUP, MODEL
  • Eskisehir Osmangazi University Affiliated: Yes


© 2021 Elsevier LtdSchadenfreude is defined as the joy individuals feel as a result of the pain felt by opposing group members. In order to experience schadenfreude, it is not enough for the individual who is suffering to be a member of the opposing group, but also the perceived competitiveness level of the opposing group must be high. Although this basic assumption of Schadenfreude's competitiveness is confirmed by self-report-based techniques, there is no study in the literature addressing the subject's neural bases. The aim of this study is to test the competitiveness assumptions of schadenfreude using the electroencephalography-based ERP method. For this purpose, EEG recordings were taken of 40 individuals who expressed themselves as belonging to a political party while watching the outgroup and ingroup party members in pain. Perception of competition levels of outgroup and ingroup members were manipulated during the study. The results show that pain empathy for the suffering individuals changes in relation to the competition level. Particularly related changes have been observed in late ERP components known to be related to consciousness. In this context, our study contributes to the literature as the first confirmation of the assumptions of schadenfreude competitiveness level by neuroscientific methodology.