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Schadenfreude: Understanding Pleasure at the Misfortune of Others

Leiden psychologist Wilco van Dijk and communication scientist Jaap Ouwerkerk of VU University Amsterdam published a book about the emotion Schadenfreude. The authors describe what the emotion Schadenfreude really is, when people experience the emotion, and what role it plays in social relations.

Wilco van Dijk
04 September 2014

What exactly is Schadenfreude?

When someone suffers a mishap, a setback or a downfall, we sometimes find ourselves experiencing schadenfreude - an emotion defined as deriving pleasure from another's misfortune. Schadenfreude is a common experience and an emotion which is seemingly inherent to social being. The editors Wilco van Dijk (Associate Professor Social and Organizational Psychologie of Leiden University) and Jaap Ouwerkerk (Associate Professor Communication Sciences at VU University Amsterdam) offer in this book a comprehensive summary of current theoretical and empirical work on schadenfreude from psychological, philosophical and other scientific perspectives.


The chapters explore justice as an underlying motive for schadenfreude, and the role played by social comparison processes and envy in evoking pleasure at the misfortunes of others in interpersonal relations. Schadenfreude is also described as a common phenomenon in intergroup relations. This is a compelling volume on a fascinating subject matter that aims to increase our understanding of the nature of this emotion and the role it plays in social relations.

(4 september 2014/ Gert-Jan Lelieveld)

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