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Causes and Consequences of Schadenfreude and Sympathy: A Developmental Analysis.

Schindler R, Körner A, Bauer S, Hadji S, Rudolph U - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Results show that children experience sympathy as well as schadenfreude at the age of 4 years.In contrast, schadenfreude is more likely when the protagonist is disliked, when actors pursue immoral goals and if they are responsible for their misfortune.In addition, sympathy increases approach (helping behavior, sitting next to the agent and doing favors), whereas schadenfreude increases avoidance tendencies.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Chemnitz, Chemnitz, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Moral judgments and moral emotions are a ubiquitous feature of social interactions. Humans decide quickly and intuitively whether an action is morally right or wrong. Schadenfreude and sympathy, as emotional reactions to the misfortunes of others, are prototypical moral emotions. So far, however, little evidence exists concerning children's understanding of schadenfreude. Within three studies, we investigated the experience of schadenfreude and sympathy among N = 364 children of different age groups. We interviewed the children while showing them picture stories. In the picture stories, we varied the behavior of the protagonist prior to a misfortune: (1) whether his behavior had been morally right or wrong, (2) whether the protagonist attained his goal, (3) whether the protagonist was responsible for the misfortune. In addition, in one study we varied (4) the emotional relationship of the interviewed children to the protagonist. Furthermore, we asked the children to decide whether they want to sit next to the protagonist or do him a favor. Results show that children experience sympathy as well as schadenfreude at the age of 4 years. Sympathy is more likely to arise when the protagonists of a story are likable, when these actors typically pursue morally positive goals, and if they are not responsible for their misfortune. In contrast, schadenfreude is more likely when the protagonist is disliked, when actors pursue immoral goals and if they are responsible for their misfortune. In addition, sympathy increases approach (helping behavior, sitting next to the agent and doing favors), whereas schadenfreude increases avoidance tendencies.

No MeSH data available.


Example of a picture story used in Study 1: “Max and the swimming pool”.
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pone.0137669.g001: Example of a picture story used in Study 1: “Max and the swimming pool”.

Mentions: Two female interviewers, who were about the same age, undergraduate students (psychology) and had both full knowledge of study hypotheses, tested the children. One of two female interviewers (person A or B) tested the children individually in a quiet room at the kindergarten. Each individual session took approximately 20 minutes. The interviewer read two stories aloud to the child while simultaneously showing a sequence of five different pictures (see Fig 1). In the beginning, a protagonist (main character) was introduced. His or her goals and actions were described, which always involved an interaction partner. At the end of the story, the protagonist suffered a misfortune. Regarding independent variables, we manipulated two pictures within the stories. For example, the scenario “Sarah and the plum tree” was about a girl named “Sarah” climbing a tree in order to pick plums to throw them at her brother. She either attained the goal by throwing the plums at her brother and subsequently fell from the tree or fell before attaining her goal. In the scenario “Max and the swimming pool”, the protagonist “Max” wants to nudge his sister into the swimming pool. Either he attained his goal before falling into the pool as well or he slipped and fell before nudging his sister into the water. Both stories ended with a picture presenting either “Sarah” or “Max” sitting in a Bus.


Causes and Consequences of Schadenfreude and Sympathy: A Developmental Analysis.

Schindler R, Körner A, Bauer S, Hadji S, Rudolph U - PLoS ONE (2015)

Example of a picture story used in Study 1: “Max and the swimming pool”.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4591124&req=5

pone.0137669.g001: Example of a picture story used in Study 1: “Max and the swimming pool”.
Mentions: Two female interviewers, who were about the same age, undergraduate students (psychology) and had both full knowledge of study hypotheses, tested the children. One of two female interviewers (person A or B) tested the children individually in a quiet room at the kindergarten. Each individual session took approximately 20 minutes. The interviewer read two stories aloud to the child while simultaneously showing a sequence of five different pictures (see Fig 1). In the beginning, a protagonist (main character) was introduced. His or her goals and actions were described, which always involved an interaction partner. At the end of the story, the protagonist suffered a misfortune. Regarding independent variables, we manipulated two pictures within the stories. For example, the scenario “Sarah and the plum tree” was about a girl named “Sarah” climbing a tree in order to pick plums to throw them at her brother. She either attained the goal by throwing the plums at her brother and subsequently fell from the tree or fell before attaining her goal. In the scenario “Max and the swimming pool”, the protagonist “Max” wants to nudge his sister into the swimming pool. Either he attained his goal before falling into the pool as well or he slipped and fell before nudging his sister into the water. Both stories ended with a picture presenting either “Sarah” or “Max” sitting in a Bus.

Bottom Line: Results show that children experience sympathy as well as schadenfreude at the age of 4 years.In contrast, schadenfreude is more likely when the protagonist is disliked, when actors pursue immoral goals and if they are responsible for their misfortune.In addition, sympathy increases approach (helping behavior, sitting next to the agent and doing favors), whereas schadenfreude increases avoidance tendencies.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Chemnitz, Chemnitz, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Moral judgments and moral emotions are a ubiquitous feature of social interactions. Humans decide quickly and intuitively whether an action is morally right or wrong. Schadenfreude and sympathy, as emotional reactions to the misfortunes of others, are prototypical moral emotions. So far, however, little evidence exists concerning children's understanding of schadenfreude. Within three studies, we investigated the experience of schadenfreude and sympathy among N = 364 children of different age groups. We interviewed the children while showing them picture stories. In the picture stories, we varied the behavior of the protagonist prior to a misfortune: (1) whether his behavior had been morally right or wrong, (2) whether the protagonist attained his goal, (3) whether the protagonist was responsible for the misfortune. In addition, in one study we varied (4) the emotional relationship of the interviewed children to the protagonist. Furthermore, we asked the children to decide whether they want to sit next to the protagonist or do him a favor. Results show that children experience sympathy as well as schadenfreude at the age of 4 years. Sympathy is more likely to arise when the protagonists of a story are likable, when these actors typically pursue morally positive goals, and if they are not responsible for their misfortune. In contrast, schadenfreude is more likely when the protagonist is disliked, when actors pursue immoral goals and if they are responsible for their misfortune. In addition, sympathy increases approach (helping behavior, sitting next to the agent and doing favors), whereas schadenfreude increases avoidance tendencies.

No MeSH data available.