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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 picture story used in Study 3: “Ole and the Easter egg”.
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pone.0137669.g009: Example of picture story used in Study 3: “Ole and the Easter egg”.

Mentions: Two female interviewers, who were about the same age, graduate students (psychology) and had both full knowledge of study hypotheses, tested the children. One of two female interviewers (person A or B) interviewed the children in a separate room at their respective institutions. Each session took about 15 minutes. We read the stories to the children while presenting the corresponding pictures presented in Fig 9. The scenario “Ole and the Easter egg” is about a boy called “Ole”. He is either stealing or asking for the beautiful Easter eggs which another child created. Subsequently, either another child pushes him and the eggs fall down and crack, or he drops the eggs (so they crack) because he is careless. In the scenario “Elfi and the Christmas star”, a girl called “Elfi” is either stealing or asking for the beautiful Christmas star, which another child created. Subsequently, either another child pushes her and the star falls down and breaks apart or she drops the star (so it breaks) because she is careless.


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 picture story used in Study 3: “Ole and the Easter egg”.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone.0137669.g009: Example of picture story used in Study 3: “Ole and the Easter egg”.
Mentions: Two female interviewers, who were about the same age, graduate students (psychology) and had both full knowledge of study hypotheses, tested the children. One of two female interviewers (person A or B) interviewed the children in a separate room at their respective institutions. Each session took about 15 minutes. We read the stories to the children while presenting the corresponding pictures presented in Fig 9. The scenario “Ole and the Easter egg” is about a boy called “Ole”. He is either stealing or asking for the beautiful Easter eggs which another child created. Subsequently, either another child pushes him and the eggs fall down and crack, or he drops the eggs (so they crack) because he is careless. In the scenario “Elfi and the Christmas star”, a girl called “Elfi” is either stealing or asking for the beautiful Christmas star, which another child created. Subsequently, either another child pushes her and the star falls down and breaks apart or she drops the star (so it breaks) because she is careless.

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.