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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 2: “sand castle” with four different characters (above) and a possible resulting picture story (below).
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pone.0137669.g006: Example of a picture story used in Study 2: “sand castle” with four different characters (above) and a possible resulting picture story (below).

Mentions: One female interviewer, who was a graduate student (psychology) and had full knowledge of study hypotheses, tested the children. Prior to the study, we trained the interviewer by test interviews that were videotaped and subsequently analyzed. A female interviewer in a quiet room inside the school tested children individually. We used a scenario-based interview consisting of two picture stories that presented everyday life situations. In order to manipulate the children’s relationship to the specific protagonist within the stories, we asked them to name two classmates. One of these two classmates should be a classmate the children were least willing to have as a seatmate, i.e., someone they rather do not like that much. The other one should be their favorite seatmate, i.e., someone they like very much. We recorded the two names and asked the children to provide the two classmates’ hair color and gender. Then, we asked the participating children to imagine they were the observer of two stories. Next, we narrated the two picture stories “plum tree” and “sand castle” by placing a character, intended to look like the classmates that had been described earlier, into the three background pictures for each of the two stories. We used one of four already prepared characters, that is, either into the background stories (a light-haired or dark-haired boy or a light-haired or dark-haired girl. Fig 6 shows the backgrounds of the two stories as well as the characters we inserted. The sequence of stories (plum tree vs. sand castle) and the relationship to the protagonist (like vs. dislike) were fully randomized.


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 2: “sand castle” with four different characters (above) and a possible resulting picture story (below).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone.0137669.g006: Example of a picture story used in Study 2: “sand castle” with four different characters (above) and a possible resulting picture story (below).
Mentions: One female interviewer, who was a graduate student (psychology) and had full knowledge of study hypotheses, tested the children. Prior to the study, we trained the interviewer by test interviews that were videotaped and subsequently analyzed. A female interviewer in a quiet room inside the school tested children individually. We used a scenario-based interview consisting of two picture stories that presented everyday life situations. In order to manipulate the children’s relationship to the specific protagonist within the stories, we asked them to name two classmates. One of these two classmates should be a classmate the children were least willing to have as a seatmate, i.e., someone they rather do not like that much. The other one should be their favorite seatmate, i.e., someone they like very much. We recorded the two names and asked the children to provide the two classmates’ hair color and gender. Then, we asked the participating children to imagine they were the observer of two stories. Next, we narrated the two picture stories “plum tree” and “sand castle” by placing a character, intended to look like the classmates that had been described earlier, into the three background pictures for each of the two stories. We used one of four already prepared characters, that is, either into the background stories (a light-haired or dark-haired boy or a light-haired or dark-haired girl. Fig 6 shows the backgrounds of the two stories as well as the characters we inserted. The sequence of stories (plum tree vs. sand castle) and the relationship to the protagonist (like vs. dislike) were fully randomized.

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.