The role of severity and intentionality in the intensity of Schadenfreude: A developmental study of Danish children

Kristine M. Jensen De Lopez, Laura Quintanilla

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Understanding envy and schadenfreude requires complex interpersonal social cognitive abilities, such as social comparison and evaluating the Self, but also understanding agency and intentionality. Previous studies of children's development of envy/schadenfreude addressed whether children understand and experience schadenfreude as opposed to compassion/sympathy or whether children's attribution of schadenfreude is a consequence of envy provoked by a disadvantageous social comparison. In this study, we take a step further and investigate the roles that agency and severity of the damage play in mediating children's attribution of schadenfreude. The participants were 144 Danish children aged 3–9 years divided into two age groups. Children were presented with eight stories supported by pictures showing intentional versus accidental and irreparable versus reparable damage to envied objects. The results show that the intensity of envy/schadenfreude, as well as the happy victimizer phenomenon, varies depending on the severity of damage, agency and intentionality. When damage is accidental, schadenfreude is expressed with less intensity compared to when damage is intentional (led by an agent). When damage is irreparable, children attribute less intense feelings of schadenfreude compared to when it is reparable. In addition, only the older children expressed reparable damage carrying more intense schadenfreude and only in the accidental condition. In general, children consider intentional and reparable damage more intense than accidental and irreparable damage, and this is mediated by age. The results are important for understanding the developmental trajectory of children's complex emotions and for educational programmes directed towards supporting this development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Number of pages9
ISSN0036-5564
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Mar 2019

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Emotions
Developmental Study
Intentionality
Damage
Child Development
Age Groups
Envy
Accidental
Attribution
Education
Trajectory
Cognitive Ability
Emotion
Sympathy
Compassion
Social Skills

Cite this

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title = "The role of severity and intentionality in the intensity of Schadenfreude: A developmental study of Danish children",
abstract = "Understanding envy and schadenfreude requires complex interpersonal social cognitive abilities, such as social comparison and evaluating the Self, but also understanding agency and intentionality. Previous studies of children's development of envy/schadenfreude addressed whether children understand and experience schadenfreude as opposed to compassion/sympathy or whether children's attribution of schadenfreude is a consequence of envy provoked by a disadvantageous social comparison. In this study, we take a step further and investigate the roles that agency and severity of the damage play in mediating children's attribution of schadenfreude. The participants were 144 Danish children aged 3–9 years divided into two age groups. Children were presented with eight stories supported by pictures showing intentional versus accidental and irreparable versus reparable damage to envied objects. The results show that the intensity of envy/schadenfreude, as well as the happy victimizer phenomenon, varies depending on the severity of damage, agency and intentionality. When damage is accidental, schadenfreude is expressed with less intensity compared to when damage is intentional (led by an agent). When damage is irreparable, children attribute less intense feelings of schadenfreude compared to when it is reparable. In addition, only the older children expressed reparable damage carrying more intense schadenfreude and only in the accidental condition. In general, children consider intentional and reparable damage more intense than accidental and irreparable damage, and this is mediated by age. The results are important for understanding the developmental trajectory of children's complex emotions and for educational programmes directed towards supporting this development.",
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The role of severity and intentionality in the intensity of Schadenfreude: A developmental study of Danish children. / De Lopez, Kristine M. Jensen; Quintanilla, Laura.

In: Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 20.03.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

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AB - Understanding envy and schadenfreude requires complex interpersonal social cognitive abilities, such as social comparison and evaluating the Self, but also understanding agency and intentionality. Previous studies of children's development of envy/schadenfreude addressed whether children understand and experience schadenfreude as opposed to compassion/sympathy or whether children's attribution of schadenfreude is a consequence of envy provoked by a disadvantageous social comparison. In this study, we take a step further and investigate the roles that agency and severity of the damage play in mediating children's attribution of schadenfreude. The participants were 144 Danish children aged 3–9 years divided into two age groups. Children were presented with eight stories supported by pictures showing intentional versus accidental and irreparable versus reparable damage to envied objects. The results show that the intensity of envy/schadenfreude, as well as the happy victimizer phenomenon, varies depending on the severity of damage, agency and intentionality. When damage is accidental, schadenfreude is expressed with less intensity compared to when damage is intentional (led by an agent). When damage is irreparable, children attribute less intense feelings of schadenfreude compared to when it is reparable. In addition, only the older children expressed reparable damage carrying more intense schadenfreude and only in the accidental condition. In general, children consider intentional and reparable damage more intense than accidental and irreparable damage, and this is mediated by age. The results are important for understanding the developmental trajectory of children's complex emotions and for educational programmes directed towards supporting this development.

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