Friday, April 3

Schadenfreude, hope not

Schadenfreude is a German word that describes the pleasure that one derives from others misfortunes. It is very closely related to envy. In this nice paper, the authors show that despite the two emotions being correlated they activate different regions of the brain. While envy activates neural connections related to pain, sch.. activates the reward center of the brain. But can anything be ever so simple.....of course not. The authors show the interplay between social pains and pleasures.

Taken from
Matthew D. Lieberman and Naomi I. Eisenberger (13 February 2009)
Science 323 (5916), 890. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1170008]
Analyses of brain activity reveal a link between social and physical pains and pleasures.

"If maintaining one's social value is a need like other physical needs, then the greater the pain caused by negative social comparisons, the greater the pleasure in response to seeing the comparison target socially devalued (schadenfreude). The authors found that greater envy and dACC activity in response to a negative social comparison was associated with greater schadenfreude and ventral striatum activity when learning of that comparison target's subsequent downfall."

Basically what it means is if you envy someone, you get greater pleasure when misfortune strikes them. In fact Leiberman and Eisenberger think of this as something akin to physical needs such as food when you are hungry! What is even more interesting is the fact that the brain is treating things as important as lack of food and water similar to social pains such as envy. Now why would that be?

If you have access you should read the article (don't worry if you don't understand much of it) and for people who
are not used to neuroscience jargon, you should read the perspectives that is referenced above.

Hidehiko Takahashi, Motoichiro Kato, Masato Matsuura, Dean Mobbs, Tetsuya Suhara, and Yoshiro Okubo (13 February 2009) Science 323 (5916), 937. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1165604]

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