It is a common human tendency that most people find satisfaction out of other’s sorrows. The U.S. researchers have also established this fact scientifically.
According to the scientists, people are biologically responsive to taking pleasure in the pain of others, at least if they envy them.
For establishing the notion, Mina Cikara of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Susan Fiske of Princeton University measured the electrical activity of cheek muscles with an electromyogram, which captures the electrical activity of facial movements when an individual smiles.
Participants were shown photographs of individuals associated with different stereotypes: the elderly (pity), students or Americans (pride), drug addicts (disgust) and rich professionals (envy). These images were then paired with everyday events such as: “Won five dollars” (positive) or “Got soaked by a taxi” (negative) or “Went to the bathroom” (neutral).
Researchers then asked the participants about their feeling and recorded their reactions along with their facial movements.
“Because people don’t like to report envy of Schadenfreude, this was the best method for gathering such responses. And, in this experiment, we were able to viscerally capture malicious glee,” Fiske said. “We found that people did smile more in response to negative than positive events, but only for groups they envied.”
In a second study, participants viewed the same photographs and events as the first study and were asked to rate how they felt on a scale of 1-9.
Scientists said similar results emerged following the study. Participants felt the worst about positive events and the best about negative events in regards to the rich professionals, the study said.
The findings were reported in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.